Back then I timed my alarm every morning to the beginning of NPR’s Morning Edition -- when the music began, and Renee Montagne and Steve Inskeep gave an overview of that day’s headlines. I’d stayed awake late the night before, too late but not long enough; I was suspenseful and exhausted. I still remember this, the way my mind holds the rest of my traumatic memories, slow and sticky over details, Montagne’s voice saying Bush had won the election. The Republicans had won both the House and the Senate. Eleven states had passed ballot measures banning same-sex marriage. November 3, 2004.
(This happened. I remembered the number without having to look it up, but there you go for those that forgot or ignored it. What I hadn’t held onto was that Michigan, Ohio, and Kentucky were all participants. I grew up in, and was then living in, Indiana. Surrounded.)
Math: 11 divided by 50 is 22%. Current-me looks at that number and immediately thinks “That’s some survivors of sexual assault type numbers.” Like...that’s a really high percentage. Back then, I remember all I could think was “one fifth of my country hates me.”
My mom needed me to go to the bank for some reason, so I drove over to the bank. (Indiana: everyone drives.) When I pulled into the parking lot, I had to park out by the berm between the road and the lot, the little grassy strip where they had all their flagpoles, and I remember looking up through the windshield at all the American flags waving in the wind, a clear sunny November day. I fell apart across the steering wheel, tried to hide my face and mouth as best I could from whoever else was coming and going. I sat like that for a while, feeling emptier and emptier, and I couldn’t even put a word to it. “Why” didn’t even feel big enough, crying didn’t feel like enough, the sobbing noises coming from somewhere inside weren’t getting it out fast enough...eventually I had to build somewhere inside for it to go, and I had to put a trap door on it, and walk out and into the bank and do my business, and go about my life with that somewhere inside, door shut. And that’s how it went, and it stayed that way, and I held it there, and it’s still there.
And so part of me cannot be happy yet, today, because honestly...you look like the same country who did that. You behave, fundamentally, like the same country that felt entitled to put up ballot measures and vote on my rights as a citizen eleven years ago, as part of a lengthy public debate. (We're having it again, now, about trans women. We've been doing it for centuries about black people.) It’s been over a third of my life, this “discussion” about me, that you’ve had out loud wherever you felt like having it. The only reason you can’t do that now is because five out of nine unelected officials decided you can’t anymore...but something tells me it won’t end here.
Beyond that, having tried to exist within the “community” for eleven years now, we have such a long way to go to even get to “non-toxic” that I have a hard time feeling like there’s even a space for me to say “I don’t feel okay being happy today”. There’s a seemingly-endless river of racist, classist, transphobic, biphobic garbage still flowing through the LGBTQIA community. Is someone *paying* people to be gatekeepers because holy shit did they over-hire. I won’t try to articulate it more here, because as someone very smart once put it, “don’t make popcorn for the straights.”
The only thing I feel warm and fuzzy about right now is that in theory, HRC will dissolve into a warm cloudy rain of piss, since gay marriage is the only thing they’ve ever given one fuck about, and now all the “wait your turn” gays and lesbians can shut the hell up and start lifting some goddamn political and fundraising weight for trans people. Housing. Healthcare. Job Safety. End Homelessness. Save Trans Youth.
Aaaaaaaaand while we’re at it, a reminder that GIVEN that the GLBTQIA movement was built on the backs of trans women of color (Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P Washington, Miss Major, to name a few), and GIVEN that like every other civil rights movement in the country we have borrowed/stolen heavily from the Black Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s-Present, and GIVEN that GLBTQIA black people and other people of color ~*~fucking exist~*~, and GIVEN that while homophobes and transphobes end up with GLBTQIA people in their families and some of them confront that and develop empathy and go on to do necessary ally work, it is muuuuuch less likely for a racist to find themselves with a black child all of a sudden (for example), and thus our progress to gaining civil rights has been accelerated in part due to something unearned (h/t Barney Frank for pointing that out), THUS we have a moral obligation as LGBTQIA people to confront racism and anti-blackness both within and without our community and to join the current Black Civil Rights Movement underway in this country.
...and that’s where I’m at with marriage equality, I guess.
PS -- we need to fix the tax code so there are no more tax breaks for married people, that shit’s fucked up.