OK, so it’s going to take a little longer. The good people of Maine – and growing up in New England I came to love Maine with a passion – have decided to take back the right of gays to marry. It’s a devastating setback. A clear majority win for the homophobes. In a democratic state. I don’t have the religious affiliation breakdown, but Maine is largely secular, I understand, even though the Catholic Church ran the show. It brings to 31 the number of states with anti-gay statutes. And it really feels like a kick in the gut.
Most gay organizations are accentuating the positives, the gay wins in the rest of the country. They are considerable. But I can’t take my eyes off this train wreck. Did I tell you it smarts?
All those young people who went to Maine to knock on doors. All those people who gave up mileage to help fly them there. All that money that could have done so much good in other places, all to fight a fear of sexual difference sanctified by cherry-picking religious folk. It’s all so damn senseless.
Gays and their growing number of allies are reduced to saying things like, “Well, we have to wait till the geezers die out.” Keep focusing, they say, on the stats. The 18-35 crowd. The future lies ahead.
For the nth time, yes, yes, yes. Homophobia will pass, just as racism and sexism are passing. But that’s true only if we keep up the pressure. Pick up and fight some more.
Which brings me to the real question. Since the result is pretty certain, we need to focus on how we get there. And there’s work to do there. There is so much infighting among gay groups. Won’t list them all, but I do want to mention one battle I used to be on the fence about, but no longer am. That’s the battle between the incrementalists and the hardliners. You know, those who want to “be sensible” and work this one tiny step at a time, giving a little here and hoping to gain more there in the end. And the hell-freezes-over folk.
That’s me. Cold day in hell camp. I am tired of reading that since we lost both in California and in Maine because people are afraid their children will be taught in schools that homosexuality is OK, we should work harder to convince the good Christian folk that we’re not after your children’s hearts and minds. We’re after equal rights.
That’s such a mistake. Of course we’re after your children’s hearts and minds. You don’t want your children to hear there are gay people? Well, tough shit, Sheila. We’re here and we belong and we are not going away.
I went to a medical center yesterday to pick up some forms for my partner. “Is this for you?” the nurse asked me. “No,” I said. “For my partner.” “Well tell him or her to be sure to …” She didn’t need me to be specific. “Him or her.”
Do you have any idea how good that feels? Back in the 60s I once wore a button, “How dare you assume I'm heterosexual?” That form of aggressive behavior doesn’t suit me any more. I don’t want to slap the faces of people I haven’t met yet.
I do, however, when I’ve been slapped, want to slap back. If the Christians can toss out the “Turn the Other Cheek” embarrassment that Jesus slipped into the Bible somehow, and advocate preemptive bombing of Iraq for God and Country, my advocating a little slapping back doesn’t seem like asking too much.
I remember when blacks used to walk up to me in the 60s and say, “I’m black and I’m proud.” It was a kind of initiation right into a club dedicated to ridding itself of internalized racism. Blacks had to go through that. Once I figured that out, my attitude changed from “Why are you pushing your black liberation in my face” to “Black and proud! Why the hell not! You tell ‘em, Jack.”
Please, please, please, can we sit at the big people’s table? Please, Mr. Catholic/ Mormon/ Southern Baptist Person, can we? We’ll promise to say nothing about being gay in the schools. Your children will never know who we are. You can go on teaching your children there is something wrong with being gay. Only please let us have the right that you have to form a civil union with a person of our choosing? Please?
Man, even joking about it makes me want to retch.
Please let us send our Jewish children to public schools. We’ll tell them to pray to Jesus. We’ll make them hide their star of David necklaces.
Please let us send our little Negro children to public schools. We’ll straighten their hair first and make them whiten their skin.
Please let us gay people send our kids to school with yours. We’ll make sure they never let out the secret they have two mommies or two daddies.
When hell freezes over.