Maine fallout and thinking of the children

So, to recap: We lost Maine by an even larger percentage than we lost California. The question of who's to blame has come up all over, of course, and the usual voices are saying we need to give up on marriage and work on other people's pet issues (see this post for my thoughts on that.) Discussion of whether the Democratic leadership is failing to lead on this (yes, it is, says Phoenix the Green, but our problems go a lot deeper than that) and whether the campaign was badly run (it was much better than No on 8, from what I saw) abound. I stopped in to talk to an ally the other day, one of the teachers at my community college who supported me when Prop. 8 hit, and he was angrier than I've seen him before. He pointed to the Yes (on 1 in Maine and 8 here) campaign's tactic of saying "gay marriage will be taught in schools if we don't have a ban on it" and the standard response of simply calling them out as liars as wrong. I think he had good points, so I'm going to paraphrase what he said:

Yes, we do want children to learn about same-sex marriage in the contexts they learn about opposite-sex marriage. We want children to learn that in our society, your life and family are valued regardless of who you are and/or who you love. We want children to learn that queer people and our families are normal because we are. So what? Why should we try to pretend that we're okay with being invisible to "protect the children" from our existence? The children don't need to be protected in this way.

This ties in with something I, as a lifelong homeschooler, have always found confusing: people who want to keep the public schools from teaching about things their personal beliefs say are wrong. It's the job of the public schools, it seems to me, to provide education for everyone, i. e., for the public. Education means factual information and skills likely to be beneficial in later life, so that they can be productive members of society. Public education is supposed to benefit the public, in short, by giving its members the tools they need to do well in it. It's therefore best if it is inclusive, so as to decrease the hostilities between societal subgroups and the destructive behavior that arises from people feeling excluded or threatened by the Other. A society in which different groups coexist is a more functional one.

So what's a parent to do if the schools are teaching their kids things they don't approve of? Parent! Yes, folks, you can raise your own kids, you don't have to let the schools do it. You can emphasize that you believe the schoolteachers are teaching them wrong in x area, and explain why, or take your kids out of the school system altogether and guarantee that they learn what you personally believe. See, parenting is actually your job, not the government's (oh, yeah, that's who provides public education -- I've seen some people who seem to be unaware of that recently, so I thought I should mention.) Passing on your specific values is your job. (And your kids may end up believing things you don't, anyway, because they're individuals. Such is life.)

Arguing against inclusivity in the schools that serve GLBT children, and the children of LGBT parents, is stupid, and it's high time we said so. Which gets to the main point that keeps coming up, in all this: we keep losing because our opponents define the subjects, and we're the "second idiot" responding to their well-formulated attacks. It's high time we stopped letting them have control of the discourse.


well, so much for that hope

We're on our own.

I actually screamed "no" several times when I got the word. I suspect later I'll cry. Our options are getting too limited here.


time travel and a worrying development

Two unrelated news items led me to this post. I will address each, in turn, and then we'll see where we are. First up, a blast from the distant past:

"Two civil and constitutional rights organizations called on a Louisiana justice of the peace to resign Friday after he refused to marry an interracial couple, saying any children the couple might have would suffer."

When I was investigating the possible reasons the California Supreme Court might overturn the late lamented ban on same-sex marriage that Prop. 8 has now replaced, I read the entire majority opinion on Perez v. Sharp, the case that in 1948 made California the first state to overturn a ban on interracial marriage. So for me, this guy's logic is like going back in time more than 61 years, to when people seriously thought they had a right to deny marriage licenses to interracial couples to "protect" their potential children from being outcasts. But even without the history, this should be scarily familiar to advocates for same-sex marriage. And there's a reason this is significant.

We've established that personal political views are reason enough to deny others equal protection under the law. It's okay to deny someone a fundamental right -- in this case the right to join in marriage with the person of one's choice (thank you, Justice Traynor) -- if you personally don't believe they are exercising it appropriately. That's what the gay marriage bans implicitly say. Now this fellow in Louisiana is trying to extend that logic to race issues again. I am well convinced that this is a symptom of the increasingly open racism in American public discourse since the President was elected, but I think it's also a result of the successful weaseling of open bigotry into the law in the form of anti-LGBT legislation.


In other news, the federal case against Prop. 8 is going forward, and I am very worried. I don't trust the lawyers who are bringing it, nor do I believe that the current US Supreme Court will rule fairly; I expect a nationwide setback for equality if it does get there, and suspect that this was the true intention of the suit. I know that ultimately, we need national protections, but I don't think this method of getting them stands a snowball's chance in hell until we depolarize the Supreme Court (or get a more liberal one, but depolarization is generally preferable.)

One possible alternative is that Prop. 8 becomes a thing of the past, eliminating the primary basis for the lawsuit, before it gets that high. I'll be honest, I'm not optimistic about this, but knowing how slowly court cases go I wouldn't rule it out. If, for instance, we vote to overturn Prop. 8 in 2010, I wouldn't be surprised if that led to dismissal of the case purely on the grounds that the law being challenged no longer exists. Even if that doesn't work, we'll have a new Governor, and I'm optimistic about Gavin Newsom's chances of being that person, and if he is it frees up the Legislature to do a lot more and makes the most prominent voice in the state government a decidedly pro-equality one.

Wild speculation at this point, but I have to hope.


family values

Q: "What are 'family values'?"

A: "When one family is more valuable than another family."
-approximate quote from The Cartoon History of the Universe Volume II by Larry Gonick

I was thinking about the future I dream about today, not the gloomy one where my entire waking life is spent working away in a little cubicle and sneakily playing Nethack for entertainment, but the one where I have a wonderful wife and about five zillion adopted and foster children. I'm the eldest of four kids, and I love my family situation, so passing on what I see as my good luck seems right to me, and my religious beliefs lead me to want to pass it on to existing children who don't have a good home or high odds of getting one rather than using AI and bringing new beings into the world. (The process of finding a sperm donor seems uncomfortably reminiscent of eugenics programs to me, but YMMV and I don't presume to apply this belief to anyone's life but my own. Anyway, that's not what I came to tell you about.)

Adoption is a complicated issue. International adoption agencies may be engaging in human trafficking, buying babies from their biological parents and adopting them out for profit. Nor are in-country adoptions guaranteed ethical; the demand for healthy white and Asian babies leads young single mothers to be pressured to give their infants up. Meanwhile, the foster care system is overflowing with older children, black and Latin children disproportionately represented, as are disabled ones, because these aren't the children anyone wants. Where the need is greatest, the people willing to help are fewest.

I want to help those kids. I know it's hard and sometimes very painfully difficult to deal with the problems children who've been taken from their families can have -- I remember two little kids a family friend fostered for a while, who called everyone "mommy" in the hope that someday they would be right and "daddy" when they were angry and who had been locked in a little room most of their short lives and it hurts my heart -- but the thing is, it's not the kids' fault and they shouldn't have to deal with a lack of support on top of it all. And I owe a debt to my parents for the wonderful childhood they gave me, which I can best pay off by spreading it around. The long and short of it is, I fully intend to be a foster parent and hopefully an adoptive one for the kids whose odds of having someone else take them in are low. It's what I want and what I feel called to do in the future.

I want to be the kind of parent every child deserves, the kind who tries their best and learns from their mistakes and never stops loving their kids and showing it. The kind of parent who takes time, no matter what else is going on, to comfort the child who's fallen down and scraped her knee or try to help explain some mathematical concept to the one struggling with his homework. I want to raise my kids to be honest and strong and proud of who they are, dedicated to doing right by others and making the world a better place, hardworking and successful. I want my kids to be able to go to whatever schools they want and work whatever jobs they want, and however hard I have to work to make that happen I'll do my best to do it. I don't care if I never get thanked or if I don't magically produce perfect citizens by sheer power of desire; I just hope I do the best possible job and leave the rest up to my kids and the world. I'll be a good mom, if not a great one.

So I get really twitchy when I hear "family values" politicians talking about banning same-sex couples from marrying or adopting or fostering to protect "families" and "children" from the horrible gays. Because, apparently, it's better to live in a group home than have two moms, or one mom who dates women. Never mind the data showing that children with gay parents aren't negatively impacted by it in any way (nor are they more likely to be queer than children of straight parents.) Never mind that kids who simply "age out" of the foster care system are likely to face severe challenges as adults that strong support from just a few loving adults could radically reduce. Nope. I still shouldn't be allowed to have the family I pray for.

Why don't "family values" politicians spend more time encouraging people to adopt or foster children in need, and less time encouraging young women to put their unwanted or unaffordable offspring into the system while trying to keep prospective parents from taking kids out of it? It's not just gay couples who get restricted, either; single gay people are kept from adopting in Florida and all unmarried couples or individual members of said couples are banned from adopting in Arkansas. This is to "protect the children," as though said children have a huge supply of qualified adoptive parents in heterosexual marriages who want them and gay and unmarried straight people are competing for them. Except they don't, and I don't see a lot of "family values" politicians or religious leaders helping to ameliorate the situation in word or deed. It smacks of hypocrisy, which I don't think Jesus would've approved of:
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to."
-Matthew 23:13


divide and be conquered

Recently I read the book Stonewall by Martin Duberman. It is, as you might be able to deduce, an account of the famous riot that changed the American movement for GLBT rights forever, but it's also a fairly in-depth historical look at the GLBT rights movement in the '60s and '70s. And a fascinating aspect of that movement, for me, is how splintered it has always been.

I'll enumerate the worst divides, not in order:
  • Gay men vs. everyone else -- the emphasis on issues particular to gay men, and the high probability that both insiders and outsiders will talk about those men first even in discussing general issues, breeds resentment and infighting.
  • Gay vs. bi -- bisexuals are subject to a lot of stereotyping and rejection within the queer community, leading them to be less willing to participate in the movement and culture, leading to increased invisibility and vulnerability for the bisexuals, leading to more stereotyping....
  • Gay and bi vs. trans -- the mainstream gay movement (e. g. the HRC) often ignores trans-specific issues and overlooks trans people when they are affected by GLB issues (in other words, most of the time); this pisses trans people off. Plus, stereotyping leads to nastiness from cisgendered GLB people, leads to fighting.
  • Conformists vs. non -- this takes multiple forms: there's the butch/femme vs. gender-role-rejecting split common in the lesbian community, the people who want to raise families and have "normal" relationships vs. the ones who reject these things as unimportant or trappings of the heterosexual world.
  • White vs. ethnic minority -- much as cisgendered men are the focus of the movement, so are white people, and indeed open racism may be more prevalent in the queer community than in the general one. I've addressed some of this here before.
  • Religious vs. non -- touchy subject, as many religions accept or actively promote homophobia, tempting people who've faced a little too much "God says I should treat you badly and say it's loving" to be hostile to all religion, while those who have found affirming belief systems or just reject the homophobia and embrace what they see as the important part of their church's dogma tend to object to this.
And now, in the Prop. 8 battle, we have the 2010 vs. 2012 debate, and we see the costs. We'll never know if 2010 is the right choice, because the "big guys" aren't willing to put money or time into it -- understandable, as they're convinced it would be wasted -- and so if the petition circulating to get it on the 2010 ballot gets enough signatures, that campaign will be woefully underfunded. This means that the 2012 campaign will be better-equipped, but of course more time changes attitudes in ways we can't necessarily predict, so that might not be enough, and the 2010 supporters/campaigners are likely to be discouraged and reluctant to invest as much. Both the 2010 and the 2012 campaigns, in other words, suffer because of the split in the movement. Meanwhile, Prop. 8's status is boosted. The anti-gay campaigners couldn't ask for better luck.

That's not the only big split around this specific issue, of course. The conformist vs. non-conformist fight raises its ugly head here, because marriage is a trapping of the heterosexual world and there are those who don't think we ought to want it at all. Now, I understand that the conformists are the face of the movement right now, and that this is doing nothing for the rest, who are still stigmatized; I strongly object to any "straight-acting" queer who tries to say that everyone should be like them if they want to be treated fairly. On the other hand, I think the aggressive non-conformists who think everyone should be like them are just as bad, and I'm tired of them telling me what I should and shouldn't want. I want a family; it's not the heterosexual brainwashing, it's just that I'm that sort of person. The inability to recognize that people may not conform (ha) to one particular idea of what queer people should be like because it's not their nature is hugely crippling the movement on all levels.

To get tangential for a moment, I'm tired of the idea that you either have to completely try to blend in with the mainstream or completely reject anything that came from it to be a good [insert group here]. My mother isn't a bad feminist for choosing the job -- unpaid and without resume value -- of main childrearer, nor would she be rejecting her womanhood if she had continued in a "real job" and left Dad home with us kids instead. What's antifeminist is the fact that childrearing (a job done mostly by women still) is an unpaid job without resume value, less societally respected than far less important tasks. Likewise, the most damaging thing to the queer community is neither the people who prefer to marry and have kids nor the ones who prefer to live wild sexy lives outside of societal norms, but rather the fact that society's treatment of us changes depending on which path we choose. (And, in both cases, the fact that there realistically isn't an accepted middle path is a problem.)

Anyway, back on topic. I remember when Prop. 8 passed there was a surge of racist reactionism based on what turned out to be inaccurate statistics; it was the black community, not the general public (or churchgoers, or seniors) that was scapegoated. Stephen Colbert, I believe, described it as "the gays versus the blacks, the blacks versus the gays, and the black gays versus themselves" or something similar. Despite the later statistics showing that it wasn't so, the divide persists in too many people's minds. It's a classic: let's you and him fight, divide and conquer. The sad bit is that it's happening completely inside of the community -- pure "gays vs. gays," no outside casualties -- and it has been for as long as there has been a community.

My challenge to my readers today, therefore, is to take a moment and evaluate where you stand on the divides I listed above. Seriously think about it, I mean. Then do as your conscience dictates.


California: what a mess!

Due to the power of the initiative process, California's people have the ability to directly fuck things up without any interference from our elected officials, but that doesn't mean the latter don't do an excellent job of fucking up things the general population can't or won't handle. Today, I'd like to take a moment to talk about some of those things, as off-topic as it may be here.

I've been a community college student since the fall of 2005, when I started taking classes part-time as a not-quite-seventeen-year-old high school student. As soon as I was eighteen, I started full-time. I've got an excellent record, though my performance has been impacted by my depression ever since Prop. 8 got through, and this summer was the first since I started that I haven't opted for class rather than relaxation. So it breaks my heart to see the troubles my school's facing.

I initially registered for three classes -- 13 units, slightly over a full-time load -- this semester. All three were full, and the waitlists for them were full too, something I had never seen happen before. I managed to add a class and drop one of the ones I had initially been in, and I think that I was able to do that mostly because it was a night class outside of general education requirements; the worst-hit classes seemed to be math and English. (There's a sign outside the English department's main building notifying students that all English classes are full with full waitlists and advising them to register as early as possible next semester if they need to take one.) I know quite a few other students weren't as fortunate as I; during the second week of classes, I saw a number of them sheepishly go up to my German teacher and ask if they could add the class, apparently desperate. The teachers are having to be tough and drop people they would normally try to keep, and are using various strategies to do so. Whole departments have been cut down to the bare minimum; at least one disappeared outright last semester when the budget problems started to hit. My department, computer science, got it pretty bad; the head of department says she's advising prospective CS majors that to get the core classes they need for transfer will take at least four years, when it's officially supposed to take two. This is all in spite of the fact that they raised the cost per unit this semester, which should have reduced enrolment considerably.

The problem's not just in terms of how many classes are offered, of course. Other services are also reduced. My sister has dyslexia and requires accommodations to do well: this semester, she's getting them, but only because her teacher is very understanding; the people who are supposed to process her paperwork so that she can get the necessary support and equipment to do well have been unavailable and not returning calls since the semester started, and she still hasn't been able to get a notetaker as a consequence (there's official paper provided by these people that she can't get, and which is prohibitively expensive to buy.)

Nor are the problems limited to the lower-class schools. One of my classmates is still with us, he told me, because the local UC told him they couldn't accept him because they had as many students as they could afford. I don't know so much about UC's situation, because I don't go there, but I do know that typically junior transfers are fairly popular with them and less likely to be turned away than, say, freshmen. I also believe that the classmate in question has fairly good grades, so he probably was actually turned away for the reason stated and not because he's unqualified.

So far, I haven't seen an impact on the bus system, which I use despite its limitations (it takes me 1.5 to two hours to get to school) and depend on, but I fear that's coming too, because I know they lost money as well.

The thing that drives me crazy about all of this is that in the long run, it's making the problems worse. The more cuts education takes, the fewer people can get a good education, and the more people will drop out at all levels. More uneducated people means that the work that requires a degree of some kind goes out of the state, which means that the people here make less money, which means that they pay less in taxes and can afford to spend less in their communities. Less tax revenue means more cuts are needed later down the line, which means more cuts to education, et cetera, ad infinitum. It's completely idiotic to operate this way. The trouble as I see it is that we're not a system that operates based on the long term. Companies look for short-term profits, and avoid investing in the long term because it will mean short-term losses; politicians look for reelection, and avoid the dirty question of raising taxes in favor of borrowing and cutting necessary programs. The trouble is, we kind of need tax dollars to pay for the programs that allow people to become wealthier. Argh.

I used to like my state, overall. In the past year, however, I've become increasingly interested in leaving it. This is saddening.

(Incidentally, signature-collection is under way to get a measure on the ballot to help combat the budget crisis -- by legalizing marijuana, taxing its sale, and releasing the people incarcerated for using or selling it. I approve of the general idea, because I see no logical reason to treat marijuana as worse than alcohol or tobacco, but at the same time if the people of California decide to allow me to smoke weed after what they denied me last election, I'm going to have a good bit of fun with the ridiculousness of it. Hallucinogen use: possibly okay. Affirming one's commitment to a long-term relationship: not okay!)


2010 vs. 2012: the internal divisions that will kill us

There's some controversy (I hate that word, but I can't think of a better one) about just when the best time is to try to put Prop. 8's overthrow on the ballot. Do we immediately spring back, trying to bring the vote in 2010, or do we keep our heads down this round and wait until 2012? Reading The Bilerico Project posts on the subject, I'd tend to believe that the 2010 side used dishonest means to establish the appearance of being the majority. Personally, I still agree with them about the timing; as I've mentioned, I'm opposed to waiting at all. But I'm frankly disgusted with the campaign's leadership already, based mostly on the stuff I've been getting in my inbox. These are quotes from messages from the Courage Campaign, which was decent to good on the initial No On 8 campaign:
(Message title: "Repeal Prop 8 in 2010? Or not?" Date: 10. August 2009 10:52. Abbreviated for your sanity; emphasis added, links removed.)

It's time to make a very big decision. And the power to make it is in your hands.

Right now, several organizations within the marriage equality movement are debating whether to place an initiative on the ballot to repeal Prop 8 in either 2010 or 2012.

The Courage Campaign community already spoke out in favor of 2010, quite strongly. In May, 83% of our members told us to work with our partners to place a marriage equality initiative on the ballot in 2010 -- and to help build the movement to support it.


But the only way a 2010 campaign can be launched is if the marriage equality movement raises $200,000. That's right. $200,000. That's how much money it will take to determine -- through research, polling and focus groups -- the initiative language and messages that will move voters to support marriage equality.

We are ready to do our part but we can't do it alone. That's why we are asking the Courage Campaign community to raise $100,000 by August 13. And we are challenging our partners in the marriage equality movement to raise the remaining $100,000 as soon as possible.

Are you ready to commit? Time is running out to launch a 2010 initiative. To put marriage equality on the ballot next year, will you help us meet this $100,000 community goal by making a contribution right now? DEADLINE: August 13.


But if the marriage equality movement is not able to raise the $200,000 necessary -- $100,000 from the Courage Campaign and $100,000 from our partners -- to pay for the research to launch an initiative campaign, then we will have to accept that our movement is not ready to repeal Prop 8 in 2010.

And we will have to wait until 2012 to bring marriage equality to the ballot again. It's as simple as that.

It's up to you. Will you help the Courage Campaign community raise $100,000 before August 13? [...]
A follow-up message, sent a day later, quoted the same text with some stats about how much they'd raised, reasserted the urgent need to act (read: give them money) immediately, and was titled "60 hours left to decide Prop 8's fate".

Here we've got a beautiful combination: we need lots of money now (the deadline is completely arbitrary) or it's your fault that we're stuck waiting around for two more years! Don't think about it; act now or you're against us! (Their emails actually have more bolding than my emphasis gives.) Basically, they're guilt-tripping people to raise an arbitrary amount of money -- they say it's the necessary amount for their research, but don't explain why -- by a completely arbitrary date. And I'm sitting here wondering how on Earth they expect to keep the community united behind them when they're fear-mongering and guilt-tripping their way into cash they'll use for goodness knows what.

The movement is splintering, and I think it's pretty clear why. We need new leadership, and it can't be these organizations, or the dubiously-aligned lawyers who supposedly think the US Supreme Court is going to help bring equality to California (long-term? Sure. This court? No.) It's got to be one of us, or a group of us, but acting as individuals, not as a faceless organization.


setting the tone

Back in June, FiveThirtyEight.com posted some interesting poll data on how differently gay marriage polls depending on the wording. Specifically, the difference was that one poll asked "if the government has a right to pass laws to prohibit or allow" marriages based on various categorizations of the relationships in question (interfaith, interracial, same-sex, polygamous, and involving children under 16, to be precise.) The other polls asked if same-sex couples should be allowed to marry -- quite a different question.

What's the result of changing the wording? 63% of people polled believed that the government did not have that right, vs. the usual 40some% that think same-sex marriage "should be allowed." (Leading me to wonder what people think voting for laws is -- if they don't believe the government has a right to regulate something, shouldn't they vote against regulating it? But people tend not to analyze their voting process, I think.)

I've mentioned before that I think conservatives are controlling the dialog. That's why this is the hot GLBT issue, and why it's being sold so badly: they define the terms and make the attacks, and we argue with the terms and counter the attacks. We aren't fighting more winnable battles on such a public stage, even though they're as important; I think we could convince people that homeless GLBT youth deserve better services, for example, and actually get a lot of support for youth-related issues in other areas, because "the children" tend to be an automatic selling point, but it's not in the limelight. And we're fighting from the position that we ought to be given rights, implicitly suggesting that the government (the voting public, Congress) has the right to deny them to us. Which it doesn't.

The big question is, though, how do we change this? I've talked a lot about what's wrong; we all do. How to make it right is harder. I, personally, will be changing my emphasis in future debates, and I advise everyone who sees this to do the same.

What future debates, specifically? Well, if it's true that an overturn of Prop. 8 will be on the ballot next year, then I'm going to try to find a way to travel to the high-Yes parts of the state and campaign next summer, because there aren't a lot of people I can influence in my own town. The hard part is transportation -- I don't drive and public transit is unlikely to work well -- but I'm optimistic about it.

Someone's got to go, anyway. The highest concentrations of queer people in the state are, not surprisingly, in the most queer-friendly areas, so we really need to be out knocking on doors further from home. As scary as that sounds.


hello again

It's been a while, hasn't it? I'll explain why later, but I want to start off by mentioning that Washington state is apparently going to have a vote on their domestic partnerships that eerily parallels Prop. 8 -- potentially taking away the rights granted to the GLB people of Washington by their legislature last year. The most telling part of this? From the article:
The newest version [of the law being challenged] adds registered domestic partners to all remaining areas of state law that presently apply only to married couples.
Translation: these are the "just civil unions" that all but the most extreme anti-gay people allege to support. They're not called marriages, they're separate from religion; they're just legally equivalent. And the good people of Washington are going to vote on whether to take them away anyway. Because, as I think I've mentioned before, anti-gay activists are liars.

As to why I was away, I spent mid-June to mid-July traveling, the time I got back through the present being sick, and the time before that, well....

Mid-May I was going about my normal academic process on campus and saw a sign advertising GLBT activist/community events, and a sense of overwhelming frustration and hopelessness overcame me as the words oh, what's the point raced through my head in three-foot letters of fire, and I became so angry and confused that I knew I had to get help. I ran over to the student health center and made an appointment to get counseling. Turned out to be the same day the court upheld Prop. 8. So I basically got out of math class, feeling pretty good (we got a test back; I got 100%, so I remember that) but scared, called home, asked my dad for the results, got them, thanked him, and stumbled off to wait for my appointment. Had it, made an appointment for another one with another counselor, went to the rally downtown.

The reason all of this interfered with my blogging is that, well, when you're having a breakdown, when something that personal is that wrong -- well, it doesn't lend itself to activism so much. I mean, it does -- I had wild impulses to write my protest on every blank wall I came to, tear down the Yes On 8 yard sign I had to see every day on the bus and stand there until the cops came, parade around with "GIVE ME BACK MY RIGHTS" scrawled on my bare chest (not downtown, though, as female toplessness is legal there), or chain myself to something -- but the sort of actions it inspires don't include coherent blog posts. All I would've produced would've been blind rage and grief and repetitions of they're lying, I'm hurting, this is wrong that would have left me more frustrated.

I'm back, though, and next summer I will be out collecting signatures to overturn this thing. Because I was reminded, when I rewatched Milk with my family, that we don't have that guy any more; we have to inspire ourselves, and keep on fighting whatever the odds. So, hi. My name is Phoenix. You stole my civil rights. Prepare to be defeated. I'm here to recruit you.



I wear a pin identifying myself in some way every day. Usually, it's the one that says "I was affected by Proposition 8." And I have had many discussions triggered by that, besides the coincidental Prop. 8 talks, and I feel called to talk about some of the common themes.

The number one, of course, is people who say "I'm sorry -- I voted no" or "yeah, me too." There's not much to say about this, really. I like to hear these things, because they're simple bond-forming dialog-openers, allowing me to connect to my neighbors and share the pain that we both felt, easing it some.

Number two is a little more frustrating, and often follows number one: "it won't last/the Supreme Court will fix it." As I've mentioned, the legal impact is minimal -- the overall legal trend, worldwide, is towards equality, and even with the oral arguments I think there's a good reason to believe that the Supreme Court will act on this specific case. Certainly by the time I find someone I want to marry, (DV, insha'Allah, etc.) I expect to have that legal right. But to me this is about losing faith in people's goodness, in their compassion, in their sense of justice. It's about knowing that even in my safe little bubble, at least one out of every four people I meet doesn't believe I deserve equal protection under the law. It's about feeling helpless to protect myself because I gave my all and it wasn't enough, and it still isn't enough, to make a difference. Under the circumstances, reassurances about the legal part don't help and get irritating, because the Supreme Court can't fix my faith, and the promise of a better world to come doesn't help because it doesn't do anything about the present. So this line, though well-intentioned, is irritating and at times seems naïve, as though it were saying that it's no big deal, but only factoring in the tip of the iceberg. (Not that I think this is at all intentional, you understand.)

That leads me neatly to number three: "sexuality shouldn't matter." Again well-intentioned, again irritating. Yeah, it shouldn't matter -- nobody should care if other people are queer or not, outside of a dating context; nobody should care about gender or ethnicity or religion or political affiliation either, but the thing is? They do. It does matter, no dodging it.

Number four is one I get from queer people who don't personally seek marriage rights (some GLB people, many T): "marriage is a nonissue -- we should be working on things that affect all of us." Yes, we should be working on more urgent things: fully inclusive nondiscrimination and hate crime legislation, protecting queer kids from abuse and bullying, protecting the children of queer parents from the same plus the danger of losing their parents, helping those in countries where the laws are truly draconian (Uganda and Iran come to mind), protecting the weakest among us. And yes, marriage is emphasized far more here and now than those things, and I don't think that's by any means a good thing -- actually, I think it's a conservative ploy to keep us occupied, controlling the dialog. However, when we start talking about "nonissues" or suggest that because you don't want it, it doesn't/shouldn't concern you, I have to disagree. Go back to #2, please, or to the first post in this blog, and also refer to the list of legal rights provided by marriage in the US. Okay, you back? So there was that little detail about the pain and grief and losing faith thing, plus the legal bit -- calling it a nonissue is really fucking hurtful to those of us who, y'know, are personally interested in those things. Besides which, discriminatory laws set a dangerous precedent from any minority's viewpoint: they imply that it's okay to have, well, discriminatory laws.

The fifth kind of reaction I encountered in its most glaring form the other day, when I spoke to a family friend I hadn't seen in some time. He greeted me, and I him, and he read my pin aloud, as people often do. Then he greeted another friend, was called away by his family, and vanished without so much as nodding a farewell or looking my way. I can't tell whether this was the snub it appeared, any more than I know whether the silent anonymous people who avoid my eyes on the bus after glancing at the pin are simply being wary of strangers or something else. Sometimes I wish I met people who were openly and unambivalently hostile; not knowing is the most irritating thing of all.


lying liars that lie

There's an old talking point that goes like this: marriage is between a man and a woman. Sure, same-sex couples should have basic legal recognition/protections of some kind, but call it something else. This is the primary argument of moderates opposed to marriage equality, and something many conservatives pay lipservice to. It's bollocks.

Two articles today about Colorado, which has passed a bare-minimum domestic partnership bill, and Wisconsin, which is working on the same. Now, these are two states with bans on same-sex marriage, protecting the sacred institution and all that, right? Here's the article on Colorado's measure:
Republicans attacked the measure, calling it an attempt to circumvent the state constitution which bans same-sex marriage.
And here's the one about Wisconsin:
The conservative Wisconsin Family Action said Tuesday that the proposal would violate the state constitution. In 2006, Wisconsin voters approved a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples.
These are not marriage equivalents we're talking about here, even if we ignore the psychological effect of the word and talk pure law. These are simple, inadequate things, trying to give basic legal recognition and a semblance of dignity to same-sex couples. And yet they are now supposedly covered by the marriage bans, something I fancy few voters knew when they put those bans into place.

I need Al Franken here to shout "LIARS" for me, I think.

Passing this along, while I'm here. I don't think I can make it, but I will be a very visible presence in my classroom that day.


that'll teach me to watch my tongue

Of course as soon as I comment on how little news there is, I get this: Mormon Church admits it spent 100 times more for Prop 8 than reported. OUCH.

I admit to a certain level of happiness at the knowledge that this is out there, even if it hasn't hit the mainstream press (which AFAIK it hasn't.) They lied; it's good that they are being exposed. On the other hand, it's frustrating because I know that the Mormons are only one religious group that worked on this thing, and even if they lose their tax-exempt status or get fined it won't lessen the power of the bigger power they represent. It will, however, make for excellent material to base further lies on. The homosexual activists are persecuting the poor innocent churches; crop the church's actions that started the whole thing and you've got "proof."

It hooks into the fight over donors' "privacy." That's the thing where there was a brief attempt to prevent information about who contributed to pass measures from being accessible, on the basis that look at how the evil homosexual activists were punishing Prop. 8 supporters by boycotting their businesses or attacking them -- usually verbally. This is, of course, complete bullshit.

Nobody has a right to not be boycotted, FFS. If they did, that would imply that others didn't have the right to spend or not spend their money as they see fit. I'm pretty sure I have a right to not buy things I don't want, and to not go to the horrible local grocery store where everyone's surly. I mean, nobody's told me yet that that's a violation of their freedom of expression because they have a right to be surly.

I think I've already covered that nobody has a right to say whatever they want and not have anyone contradict them, right? So I'll skip the part where I talk about how negative reactions are not something the Constitution protects you from. Let's just say the LDS appear to be about to get a stiff lesson in what freedom of religion and expression don't mean, and I just wish I thought it would take.


days go by

I haven't posted here in over a month because, well, nothing's changing. We got some interesting data, most significantly that knowing GLB people didn't affect how people voted that much. I'd say this is really significant, but once the first surprise sank in I realized that it made sense.

We accept that people may not think they have "anything against" us while still expressing raging bigotry. Anyone who's participated in any debate involving a minority knows the old classic, "some of my best friends are [insert group here] but...." The thing is, generally when interacting with our friends we see them as, well, our friends, not as "a black person/Latino/Hindu/Libertarian." There are exceptions -- for instance, I get my hair cut by a black woman I could never possibly fail to see as a black woman, because she's an activist and a half -- and subconsciously we may be affected, but as a general rule an individual person is first and foremost a person. When thinking about the group they belong to, we probably don't think of them first. We think of the stereotype.

I read an article the other day about the Swiss government's movement to restrict nude hiking in anticipation of a huge number of German tourists hiking naked later this year. Between that, a similar issue in Italy a while back, the infamous nude skydiving video I'm too lazy to dig up, and the airline for nudists, I've become very attached to the stereotype of "naked in public = German" and vice versa. And actually some of my best friends are German and to the best of my knowledge aren't in the habit of hiking naked, and I never associate any of them with nudity. And yet, say "German" to me and I think, not of them, but of the skydiving guys. I daresay even if/when I go to Germany this summer and discover that most if not all of the people I meet are fully clothed, I will continue to have this association. My point is, beliefs about groups of people, once formed, are fairly resistant to the influence of individuals in those groups.

"Well, then," I can hear you saying, "if knowing people doesn't change anything, what can we do? Being out obviously isn't enough." Ah, she responds arrogantly to the imagined masses, this returns to the idea of being actively out. It's not enough for us to say "I'm gay" once and have that be an end to it. It's probably not enough to bring a partner to every gathering. You have to, like my hairdresser, be an activist. Discuss the issues. Make people see you and the group together, not apart.

The difficulty of this is that it is freaking exhausting. I am so damn' sick of having to introduce the terminology and underlying concepts, dispel the common myths, and then debate my basic rights with people, I wish I never had to do it again. I'm tired of putting myself out there, hearing the same old tired responses, failing to change anything. And I'm only 20, and I've only been talking about this for maybe four years, so I can only imagine that the older activists must be on their fifth or sixth wind at least. And I'll be there, given time.

Right now I'm burnt out because there is no news. There is no justice, but more importantly my faith in humanity's still off somewhere. I was at a concert earlier this month, and the time had come to sing "Step By Step" together and I realized that I couldn't do it because, while I believe it intellectually, my heart is not so sure. That's the long-term thing here -- I don't trust that the right will prevail any more. Only months ago I was a proud idealist, convinced that if only we worked hard enough all would be well, and now I'm fighting just to get that back. And it doesn't stop hurting, and it won't no matter what the court rules, because I don't have faith in the system to protect me, or in the people, or in God. I hope like hell this will pass, because if it doesn't I think I'll end up nonfunctional, addicted to something and hating the world, driven to do something beyond anyone's power and make the world right.

Wow, that was a downer. Sorry, folks.