news and the calm

Today the No On 8 campaign officially admitted defeat. I am not surprised. There are, I understand, two challenges to the method by which the constitution was changed. The legal impact, thus, may not be significant, but the psychological impact on both sides of the battle is likely to be huge, as the GLB community is demoralized by popular opposition, particularly from liberals and members of other minorities, and the general population is likely to resent being overruled. (The job of the courts is and has always been to protect the minority from the majority's will where that will hurts the minority, and thus it is perfectly appropriate for them to act to defend gays; more on this later.)

I've been seeing a lot of discussion on the internet, and specifically I think people should see this post about race and the election and this article from the Advocate. I emphasize the first, because it and its comments highlight a significant problem: people are responding to hate with hate, to bigotry with bigotry. That's wrong and ineffective. I know I'm angry, have been angry, have voiced my anger. I know for a lot of people, blaming the African-American community or the Latino community or even President-Elect Obama is a manifestation of anger, but it is the kind of manifestation that we must avoid at all costs. If we attack anyone, let it be the people who invented lies and twisted the truth to convince California voters to rob same-sex couples of their legal recognition. But passing a blanket judgment on a fellow minority is hypocrisy of the highest order and white gay people who even think for a moment that it is acceptable should be truly ashamed of themselves.

You don't win battles like this by violent means -- actions or words. You have to rise above, be better than human, before being recognized as human. The gay community needs to look, appropriately, to Martin Luther King Jr., and remember that what allowed him to have the impact he had, to touch the lives he touched, is that he met hate with love and violence with nonviolence. And he believed in equality for all. That's how you do it. You don't back down and you don't let yourself be walked on, but you hold your moral high ground and you hold your truth and you open yourself up for attack and don't fight back. It sucks, but it's true. We need to stay above the personal attacks, stay above the rude words and sweeping generalizations. And we absolutely cannot claim to advocate for equality unless we stand also against all other forms of discrimination -- if we embrace racism, we become the oppressor.

Last night I was contemplating how a lot of people have suggested that the reason Prop. 8 could pass was that people think they don't know any gay people, so they abstract us and don't think about us as people. And it seemed to me, well, if that's true, the way to win the battle in the hearts and minds of the people is to be really definitely and unavoidably out. We need to let them know that gay people are their relatives, their friends, their neighbors and coworkers, the people they pass on the street. So this morning, I got up and I wrote "Victim of Prop. 8" on a piece of paper which I then pinned to my chest, and I went to school.

My first class was canceled -- the teacher showed up to tell us, then bolted. No sooner had we gotten out of the classroom than I found myself surrounded by classmates. A boy I had never made eye contact with before read the sign, offered up a high-five, and then abruptly decided that that wasn't right and changed it to a hug. About ten people offered sympathy, boggled over what had happened, and promised that it would be all right. After a while we disbanded and I crossed the campus to my other class, stopped along the way by a young woman who let out a horrified "it PASSED?" and seemed totally shattered when I confirmed it.

In front of the next classroom, I met a woman from whom I took a class some semesters back. She offered sympathy and a hug. Another woman joined in the sympathy, though she told me that I shouldn't use the word "victim" because it gives the other side too much power. (My dad told me the same this morning; I hold that the other side does have power, and that I need to convince them to use it responsibly, but I recognize that this may be an uninformed view.) Then, as I was prowling around the building, my teacher noticed me from his office and called me in to tell me how disappointed he had been and to offer support and encouragement for the long term. My classmates were likewise supportive -- one gave me a hug and told me firmly that it would be all right, and others offered a mixture of support and commiseration.

Waiting for the bus, I caught the attention of an older Mexican woman, who said "yes" in heavily accented English and gave me a supportive thumbs-up. On the bus, a young woman nodded and said "me too" and we talked for about fifteen minutes. Later, another young woman told me about going to her friends' wedding and what it meant to her, and we talked about equality and culture, and she told me I was "beautiful" for being out and in this fight. Finally, when I got off the bus another woman turned to me and said simply, "I support your rights."

My county voted, 71.4% to 28.6, against Prop. 8. So I wasn't surprised. But it was a very strengthening, encouraging, faith-in-humanity-restoring thing, to feel their support today.

People tell me sometimes that I'm brave. I don't see it that way. I'm not Martin Luther King Jr., facing death for speaking out about my needs. The worst that will happen to me around here is that someone taunts me. But this is what I can do to strengthen my allies and hopefully win a few new ones in time, so it's what I'm doing. And I hope that my friends -- gay ones, bi ones, and straight ones alike -- will surpass me in their courage and their strength and speak out as loudly.

No comments: