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.