After such an exhilarating blow to the past and votes for the future yesterday in the election of Obama, how does such an historically marginalized and oppressed minority now see so fit to continue to engage in, and pass on, that same method of dehumanization to another minority in the United States? By no means do I think what gay people have suffered in the United States compares with what Blacks have suffered, but I just truly don’t understand it.
I guess a lot of people think that if it weren’t for Obama (and thus, if it weren’t for so many blacks coming out to vote) that Proposition 8 wouldn’t have passed in California. It’s still a bit shocking to me that it did pass in California, a state notorious for its liberalism and embracing of diversity. This blow, along with the anti-gay marriage ballots in Arizona and Florida, and the anti-gay adoption ballot passing in Arkansas, don’t hurt as much as 2004 did, when we suffered the double-whammy of Bush getting re-elected, and 11 states voting to ban same-sex marriage. That day was incredibly painful and felt dehumanizing. I guess I’m willing to concede California and not worry myself into a tizzy over it if it means we get to have Obama be our next President (by far the most gay-inclusive President ever). I guess I also just don’t take it as personally this time, though there’s absolutely no reason why I shouldn’t take it personally. It is a direct assault on my humanity, and an attempt to invalidate my life and my family, not only legally, but socially.
I guess what is most upsetting about the fact that, according to exit polls, black voters supported Proposition 8 by seventy percent is that, as Savage says, the support isn’t mutual. Seventy percent is astonishing. Last week I literally wept watching a 5-hour long line of African American voters in Atlanta waiting to cast ballots. My heart swelled with pride and admiration when I heard stories about 70-year-old African American people voting for the first time ever. I was furious and incredibly depressed at the racial frenzy whipped up by McCain and Palin at their rallies, and terrified for black people and their safety, and the rage and resentment that Palin and McCain were fostering in racist, bigoted, hate-filled sub-humans. But then, even in the most liberal of liberal states, to have none of that concern, empathy, or compassion returned, and to be explicitly told, once again, even by the oppressed themselves, that I’m not worthy of the same rights they suffered, bled and died for is unforgivable. To me.
I’m proud of the United States today. I can honestly say I’ve never been proud to be an American before. And I’m not being hyperbolic; I mean it. But it’s a pride tempered with caution. A pride borne of exhaustion, pessimism and heartbreak. I have a lot of hope for the next 4 years, and for the country beyond that. But just electing Obama doesn’t mean anybody has won. It means people are simply tired like I am. Which is a start. And a good start. But only a start, nonetheless. It is no time to relax, or stop fighting, or to gain any false hope. Despite my overwhelming happiness (it took me 4 hours to go to sleep last night I was so wound up), I feel betrayed this morning. My causes are not their causes, I understand that. But I guess I was under a false impression that people wanted unity more than anything. This is not an end to identity politics, sadly, as many people seem to think it is. Or an end to racism. It’s the beginning of a dialogue, and if California is any indication, identity politics, and bigotry and fear, are still alive and well in the United States, and a lot of victims have decided in their minds that it’s now okay to become the oppressors. How depressing.
This morning I spent four hours giving 2 separate sexuality and gender workshops to teenagers from all across the state of Oregon at the Oregon Peacekeeper’s Conference at the Portland Convention Center. They wanted to learn. They wanted information about how to support their friends. They wanted information and advice for setting up gay-straight alliances at their high schools. They complained of their faculty and teachers using gay slurs in classrooms (!!), and wanted to know if there was anything they could do about it. It was actually an ideal way to spend the morning after yesterday’s election, and a way to help soften the blows of all of the anti-gay initiatives passing. This is all I know how to do. Teach and vote. Sometimes the country feels so big and unmanageable, but we can influence our own worlds, and we can be visible models.
I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again. These kids are the future. More than Obama, and more than regrettable ballot initiatives. They are what give me real hope.