Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I'm the Author of My Equality - Not Maine's Question 1

Reporter Karen Ocamb invited me to contribute this piece for her Prop 8: One Year Anniversary series on her blog LGBT POV. I don't write a lot of deeply personal pieces for Unite the Fight, but what happened last night in Maine was personal, and so I respond in kind.

Last Friday I was a nervous wreck. I had asked several friends for input, and though all of them were very helpful, I knew that only I could come up with the best plan. Of course one of my friends, making me even more nervous than I already was, reminded me, “You only get to do this once. It has to be perfect.”

With my friend’s words echoing in my ears, I hastily yet carefully filled the apartment that I share with my boyfriend with lit candles, dusted and washed the dishes, used mouthwash, actually put on a tie and trimmed the jungle beard. When Loch came home from work, I got down on one knee, took out two rings and proposed.

Loch said yes. We cried.

Last night I was a nervous wreck. Again. I was live blogging the election night results, constantly updating Unite the Fight with poll numbers from Maine and Washington, Twittering like a mad man. I felt the same adrenaline rush that I felt Friday night, the same excitement of possible history in the making. I even began picturing a wedding in Maine.

Maine said yes. I cried.

“Yes.” That answer brought tears of joy to me Friday. But last night, it brought tears of sorrow. With 93% of precincts reporting, Mainers voted Yes 52.77% to 47.23% to killing the marriage equality bill passed by their legislature and signed by their Catholic governor.

Last November, Loch and I had been dating for 8 months. During the Summer of Love, the idea of marriage for us was almost a joke - we were still trying to figure which one of us had to fight traffic and drive across town to stay at the other’s apartment for the night. But when Prop 8 passed, we were devastated. Though neither of us knew where our relationship was headed, the idea that a majority of our fellow citizens told us where it couldn’t go hurt us deeply.

So we took to the streets. And I started Unite the Fight.

A year later, marriage is not a joke to us. We’ve arrived. We’re ready. And I wanted to celebrate our engagement with a win in Maine. But there was another reason I so desperately wanted Maine to uphold marriage equality.

I come from a very fundamental, Christian background. My family is so deeply rooted in religion that my parents became missionaries, and at a young age, I was taken all over the world to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I came out to my parents when I was 18. I had to subsequently come out three more times to get past their denial.

Fourteen years later, my parents still struggle with my being gay. They have never once met anyone I have ever dated, nor during that time did they ever ask if I was seeing anyone, carefully picking questions during phone calls to avoid the topic of my personal life. Yet they have always made it clear that they love me despite arguing that my choices are an abomination.

It was a big step just telling them about Loch. Loch was different. He was the one. And I knew that he was going to be a part of my family. But I had to figure out who else consisted of my true family. Were my parents going to be included in that unit? Were they going to participate in that aspect of my life?

It hasn’t been easy. We face our true test this Sunday. For the first time ever, my parents are going to meet someone that I love. And not only that, they’re going to be meeting my husband-to-be.

I wanted so badly for Maine to stand beside Loch and myself when we sit down for dinner with my parents Sunday. I wanted deeply to have a whole state to have our backs when I proudly introduced my fiancĂ© to my parents. Though I don’t require the approval of anyone anywhere to sanctify my relationship with Loch, having a marriage that is not only recognized by a government but by my fellow citizens sends a powerful message not only to a faceless nation but to the very real people who are my parents.

I can’t change what happened in Maine. I can’t change the fact that I won’t have my wedding in the gorgeous Pine Tree State. I can’t change that two years in a row, a slight majority voted away my rights.

But I can continue to take a stand. I can continue to fight for what is right and just and fair. I can continue to struggle to protect my future marriage and the children that I plan to have with Loch.

And though I cry as I write this, and feel defeated, I refuse to let what happened in Maine keep me down.

Tonight, all across the state of California and different parts of the country, rallies and marches are being held to mark the historical blot on our nation’s history that is Proposition 8. We must remember that though Proposition 8 stripped us of our rights as it tore our hearts out, it also woke the sleeping giant that is the LGBT population.

Proposition 8 and Question 1 are just chapters of a beautiful tome that will tell the amazing story of the LGBT Civil Rights Movement.

Today, Kate Kendall of NCLR responded to the passage of Question 1, saying, “We are in a difficult moment. This is a hard day. But we can't lose hope or stop believing in the rightness of our cause. We have the privilege of living in the midst of our own civil rights movement. The cost of that privilege is the same cost it has been in every movement--our humanity and dignity is attacked and undermined and we stand tall, never give up, and never lose faith. Today is a test, and we must be the measure of it.”

We are privileged. Don’t forget that. Stand up tonight. Take to the streets. We’re the authors of our own story. Let’s give this adventure a happy ending.

Image of Loch and me by Marta Evry.

9 comments:

  1. I want to be a groomsmaid (<-new word) at your guys' wedding.

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  2. That's a really adorable picture of you and Loch, btw. I have to keep reminding myself of couples like you whose rights are being denied every day and whose lives are being adversely affected.

    Because I've come to a let's-just-wait attitude. I'm finding the whole state-by-state dance a little tiring, and all the effort and money bordering on wasteful for something so inevitable.

    Yeah, we lost the 31st ballot measure in a row, but once again by the narrowest margin. The pendulum is swinging and time is doing most of the work. I'd be content to sit by and let it happen ... but then I think of, among others, you and Loch.

    Still ... I'm at a loss. What can be done that time itself won't do?

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  3. Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts with us. Last night was personal for all of us in the fight for equality. My partner and I long for the day that we can marry and, perhaps even more, for a day when young gay men and lesbians can grow up assured of their equality under the law.

    One of the ironies of the situation is that had we won it would have had no real effect on our enemies. They would have gone on in their own lives as though nothing had happened, except perhaps being able to somehow twist the facts around so that as always they become victims.

    But had we won, the consequences for us would have been enormous and would have extended far beyond the right to marry the person we love: it would also have given us the assurance that our government recognized the legal dignity of our relationships and of ourselves as equal citizens in a democracy. Having lost, we have to reconcile ourselves to the fact that we are second-class citizens.

    You are right that we are privileged, both in the sense that you reference the term--privileged to be in the midst of an important struggle. But we are, most of us who post here and commit ourselves to the struggle, also privileged in the sense that we can afford to spend our time and resources in the fight.

    The thousands of us who were able to contribute money to the cause are clearly privileged. But what outrages me is that not only do we have to pony up money to fight for rights that others take for granted, but because our enemies like the Roman Catholic Church and the Mormon-front National Organization for Marriage are using tax-exempt monies to fight us, we were in effect not only funding the No on 1 campaign but also subsidizing the Yes on 1 campaign.

    We who are fortunate enough to be able to help fund this cause constitute an unusual class in this country: second-class citizens yet functionally elite. In so many ways, we are lucky even if we have to pay "fag taxes" to enjoy a fraction of the security a marriage license would bestow on our families.


    Unfortunately, most gay men and lesbians in this country are not privileged in this sense. They are simply second-class citizens. And so many of their straight neighbors are happy to see them remain so.

    I was very hopeful about Maine because I think the campaign operation was well done, but the history there with the anti-discrimination law (twice vetoed before it was finally passed) should have warned us that Maine is not a liberal state.

    The experience in Maine should remind us of the casual cruelty our religious enemies are so willing to bestow on us, the lies they are happy to tell, and the relish they take in denying our humanity.

    And after our tears, we need to dust off our pants and get on with the struggle.

    Again, thank you for your wonderful site and your moving words.

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  4. Congratulations on your engagement! I will be thinking of you and Loch on Sunday as I think of you now. I am a straight wife and mother who along with many, many of her friends voted NO on 1 and are so saddened by the outcome. We are devastated but not defeated. I sit here tying white knots and gathering those that stand for love to pick up right where we left off.

    Never lose hope because you are not alone. We will NEVER stop fighting for you!!

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  5. Thank you all for the kind comments and thoughts!

    @cowboydik "groomsmaid"? Would that require a gown or a tux?

    @zlick, I know what you mean. Sometimes I think the same way. Just wait for the younger generation to grow up, become the majority and vote because it's almost too much pain to experience defeat after defeat. But then the reality of lacking protections and benefits kicks in, and I realize I don't have much of a choice but to keep fighting.

    @Jay Johnson
    Great comment. But as for the other part of being "privileged" - if I keep up this pace on UTF, I won't be privileged anymore. LOL. So much time and no pay. I'm indebted to Loch for all his support. Without him, UTF wouldn't be possible.

    But you bring up a serious point about our LGBT population. So many are second-class and living in poverty. It's devastating. Many want to join in the movement but many are literally unable. We fight for them, too.

    @Bethany YOU ROCK! Thank you so much for your support, your vote and your dedication to equal rights. After such a brutal defeat in Maine, it's very encouraging reading that we have such dedicated LGBT allies working with us with such commitment. It's also a good reminder that over 47% voted for us in Maine. It's not just a number. Those are real allies. And you're one of them.

    Thanks for fighting for me and all of us. It's appreciated more than you know.

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  6. OH WOW!

    Phillip, you and Loch are such a beautiful couple - and the image of you getting down on one knee brings tears (the good kind) to my eyes.

    You two are the reason we have to keep going back and fighting - you and Bill & Tom, and Jordan & Hank, and so many other couples I've now met who are denied the rights that I take for granted.

    California is better than Prop 8 and I have faith that the people of California will see that all love is equal.

    I'm going to do everything possible to see that you two can celebrate a Thanksgiving wedding in 2010.

    Jane
    http://www.millionforamillion.com

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  7. Congratulations to you and Loch. And for the courage to expose yourself so personally.

    I hope to dance at your wedding.

    There will be marriage.

    Count on it.

    But it likely won't be pretty (the dancing not the marriage).

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  9. Mazel Tov to you guys...I'm so glad I read this tonight so I am giving hugs with meaning as I see you tomorrow morning! (Unless the allergies are actually a cold and then I'll get a hug proxy to hug for me.) :)

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