I haven’t posted since the election because I didn’t want to write about anything else before I commented on the election. But I have been having the hardest time processing it and figuring out what I even think about it, let alone being able to write about it coherently.
I took Election Day off from work and did No on 8 campaigning in Contra Costa County, one of the most conservative counties in the Bay Area. It was exhausting work, not in terms of being physically demanding but rather in terms of being emotionally draining. It was hard to put myself out there on the streets with No on 8 signs, seeking signs of approval and support or even just mild interest from passersby. I got called a “nigger-loving cunt-munching faggot whore” by one lovely young man. Cunt-munching? Kinda like it. Not gonna lie.
So I was in Contra Costa by myself most of the day, and then came back to San Francisco to watch the results pour in, also by myself. Lissa was working until 7:30 so I sat at a bar in the Castro and watched Obama win Pennsylvania, then Ohio, then Florida… And then when Lissa got out of work I made my way over to the Westin St. Francis Hotel by Union Square where the No on 8 election party was being hosted in a ballroom. We were just entering the hotel when Obama was announced winner, and cheers erupted all across the square. It was like when the Sox won the World Series in 2004, it was like New Years in 2000, only it was way more intense, way more jubilant, there was this prevailing euphoria. And I was carried along by it, weeping as I watched first McCain’s concession speech, and then Obama’s victory speech. The enormity of what we had just accomplished blew me away, took all my solidity out of me. I was like gel. How do I re-establish my conception of myself in an Obama administration? Under a government that I support? I have come of age in an era of dimwitted politics, an era in which liberalism was squelched by fear-mongering and dishonest pandering to an easily misled middle class. And Obama won! Incredible. And mind-boggling. And bawl-worthy.
But then the ballot counts of Prop 8 started coming in, and the mood quickly sobered. My tears became tears of dejection rather than victory. Lissa and I left the Westin around 1am, ready to collapse in bed. I cried myself to sleep, a complete emotional mishmash, not sure whether I was crying for joy or exhaustion or sadness or anger or confusion. And I woke up feeling nothing, really. After all, Prop 8 hadn’t officially been called.
Then over the course of the day, it was called. Prop 8 passed. And my feelings about this election have been so hard for me to decipher that I haven’t known what to write and how to write it. Then this morning, my mom forwarded me this editorial by Judith Warner in the NYT, and it was in writing back to her that I found my voice. Here’s what I wrote:
Thanks, Mom, for forwarding this. How poignant, and true; it just captures so much what this election has felt like for me. I’ve never really felt homophobia and heterosexism so fully as I did on election night. It was a kick in the gut. And it still brings me to tears every time I read something like this. There was an online editorial written by a black straight man calling on fellow black straight men to be queer allies, which had me bawling. There was the youtube clip of Keith Olbermann’s “Special Comment” on his nightly show (if you haven’t seen it, you MUST watch it) which also had me in tears. And now this too. It’s like now, whenever straight people call it what it is, openly, directly, and passionately, I get all teary. Like “oh my god, there are people who care!” Because on election night, watching all those tears streaming down the faces of Obama supporters on TV in Chicago, and here in San Francisco, I just felt so… left out. Of course I rejoiced in and celebrated his win. But I felt, for the first time really, so invisible. Here the first black president of the US was just elected, a triumph of civil rights, and many of the same people who voted for Obama also voted against gay marriage? What? How is that possible? I just couldn’t feel as happy anymore. And sometimes now when I walk around or go about my day, I wonder, “did that person next to me on the muni vote yes on 8? did that person still proudly wearing his obama button vote yes on 8? did that person who was crying for relief and joy at obama’s victory speech vote yes on 8?” It just has taken so much out of me.
So. Anyway. Thanks for passing this on, we need this kind of thing so much. We NEED straight people, who supposedly have nothing invested in this, to be loudly proclaiming “This is about ALL of us.” And it’s really not just about the specific right to marry–because obviously, that doesn’t really affect me right now and honestly I don’t even know that I think it’s the best fight for the gay rights movement to be fighting–but it’s about truly being pushed to second class citizen status. And even I feel the pangs of that.
I ran into my Ex today. I knew it would happen eventually; we both live in San Francisco, and we’re both gay, so we were bound to cross paths at some point. But I didn’t think it would be on a harmless Sunday afternoon downtown.
The day started off innocuously. Actually, it started off really well. For some reason, I was inspired to go to church. Don’t ask why, I certainly don’t know. I grew up singing in the choir at an Episcopal church in my hometown, a fairly conservative, traditional, docile church. But I’ve never felt particularly religious and so I stopped going to church when I left home. But yesterday, for some reason, I decided that I would go to church today, so I went to Glide Methodist church in the Tenderloin. It’s a social justice church, an anti-oppression church, an all-inclusive, welcoming church. So it advertises itself. And I can’t imagine it being more true. It was just, overwhelming. In a good way. I was so moved to be there and feel like part of this force. Especially with our brilliantly momentous election coming up, everyone there was so rallying around this notion of change, of choosing life. And they kept reiterating, “NO ON 8!” There was so much energy and camaraderie… I think I’ll be going back. I know I’ll be going back.
And then I went to vote. They have early voting here in California and I figured I’d do it now so I don’t run into any crises on Tuesday–since I’ve moved recently, I wasn’t sure they’d gotten my change of registration. Turns out I and half the city had the same idea, so I waited in line for three hours–THREE HOURS–at City Hall to vote. Phew. There were No on 8 people campaigning outside, though, reminding us: “Barack Obama says NO ON 8! Arnold Schwarzenegger says NO ON 8! Diane Feinstein says NO ON 8! My mama says NO ON 8!” Et cetera. Cute. And I VOTED!! I nearly cried as I was checking the box for NO on 8 and for Obama. Today I’ve just been really teary for some reason. Been feeling moved, awed, inspired by humanity. So it felt so heavy and meaningful to cast my vote.
And then I finally left City Hall after three and a half hours and there was my Ex, walking by. I was kind of stunned, and I think she was too; we didn’t really know what to say to each other. It was like this wall was up. We were going in different directions, so after a couple minutes of awkward, stammering “so how are you? Yeah, I’m great, I’m happy, blah blah blah,” we parted ways. “Would you want to hang out sometime? Like go with me to the Academy of Sciences?” I asked. “Yeah, sure, that would be cool,” she said, noncommitally. Sigh. Now I’m feeling drained.
Those lips, I kissed those lips,
I woke up with my arms around that body,
tangled up in those legs.
Those eyes, I soared and floated and sank in their gaze,
I ran my fingers through that hair,
fluttered my eyelashes against those cheeks,
Mesmerized by the fantastic reality of our lives and bodies intertwining.
No longer intertwining, as we stand here.
I see those lips, those eyes, that foreign body;
Tactile memories flood my senses, confuse my composure.
The air is thick with evaporated love, like carbon monoxide
Or laughing gas.
A couple feet away,
I could reach out and brush her cheek,
But my arm can’t interpret such a gesture,
and those few feet are unreachable–
What was once so effortless now so utterly impossible.
Today is National Coming Out Day.
COME OUT COME OUT WHEREVER YOU ARE. (The Wizard of Oz, by the way, was one of my favorite movies as a little girl. I think I was in love with Judy Garland. And is it just me, or are there queer subtexts to it? Anyway.)
In honor of it, I will tell my coming out story. Which is not, just to warn you, terribly exciting. But since it is National Coming Out Day, and since I hope that people all over the US today are talking about being queer and knowing people who are queer and all those sorts of things, I will do the same. And maybe my coming out story, undramatic as it is, will add yet another voice to the mix of those who came out unproblematically, without even really having to, well, come out of anything.
For me, the hardest part was coming to terms with it myself. I was 12 when I had my first sexual dream about a girl, and I put it out of my mind. I was in junior high when I fell in love with the girl I called my best friend, but I never admit it to anyone, even myself, except in the form of excruciating journal entries in which I said such things as “please, God, send me a guy to prove I’m not a lesbian!” and “I think I might be in love with Alyssa, but I think she’s in love with Erin and no one will ever love me.” I was tortured. And the fact that three of my best friends came out to me (not publicly came out) and dated each other convinced me that I wasn’t really gay, I was just gay by association. They were rubbing off on me. So I put it out of my mind.
Until I started dating guys. I didn’t like kissing them, and I didn’t like the sex, and I figured I was doomed to bad sex with guys who cared about me but not enough to give me orgasms. They were good guys, but there was something missing.
Then I went to college–women’s college on the east coast. Why did I go to women’s college? Certainly NOT because I wanted to date women. I almost didn’t go to women’s college because I was afraid I’d never be able to date, I’d never meet guys. But there was something about it that I just fell in love with, when I visited as a prospective student, so off I went. And within two weeks, I was out.
There was no defining moment, at least not that I remember. I was just watching and absorbing everything around me, and it wasn’t making sense anymore, being straight, identifying as straight. It just didn’t work. There was no grand announcement, no “Guess what? I’m GAY!” Because people were still starting to get to know each other, so it could just be something that was part of me right from the outset, when people got to know me.
I didn’t come out to my parents and family until my sophomore year of colleg. And then it was a phone call home that went something like this:
“Hi honey, what’s new?”
“Well I’m dating someone new!”
“Oh really? Who?”
“Her name is Stella.”*
“Mom? You there?”
“Alriiiiiiight. You do know that it’s a hard life for gay people, right? I’m worried about you.”
*Her name wasn’t really Stella.
Et cetera. She went into the whole it’s-hard-to-have-kids thing and the people-will-discriminate-against-you thing. DUH. And the is-this-a-phase thing. And my dad is STILL doing all of that. Sigh. But my brother and sister (both younger) were remarkably unconcerned and my parents try. They do try. My mom will send me newspaper clippings and links about gay and lesbian issues. “Thought this might interest you,” she says. Yes, Mom, because all things Homo interest me. But she’s trying. My dad generally avoids talking about it.
I’m not out to my grandparents. They would have conniptions and would probably disown me. And would probably then die of heart attacks. I have no plans to come out to them ever, unless I’m getting married/civilly united/domestically partnered and they’re still around. They’re 90, though, so I’m not too worried about that. I love them, but they’re ridiculously conservative and it’s not worth it to me to try to change them at this point. Or to make them hate me.
And with other people, like friends or employers or co-workers, I don’t come out. I just let it come up. It’s no big “so, you should know I’m gay” thing, it’s a “so I have a funny story, one time my girlfriend and I were blahblahblahing” etc.
I think coming out is slowly becoming obsolete. I think eventually, queers won’t have to come out any more than straight people come out. We won’t have to brace ourselves. Eventually, I think that will be true. I think more and more, especially in urban areas, this is already the case with young people. Sexuality is becoming more of a non-issue. I have hope for the future in this regard. But for now, coming out is still important, so important, for everyone everywhere, because the more visible we are, the more people will know we’re not going anywhere. We’ll become rooted in the American Consciousness. And the more people who know queers and love queers, the more we’re not going anywhere. You know? So, today, on National Coming Out Day, COME OUT!
I’m working on my roommate. She’s super gay, but has trouble saying it. She has trouble saying “I’m gay.” “I’m a lesbian.” “I’m queer.” I think today she might say it. Because it’s NATIONAL COMING OUT DAY.
Also, in honor of the day ‘n all, consider donating money to Equality for All to defeat Proposition 8 on Election Day. We’ll be so sad, so defeated, if it passes, if California constitutionally bans same-sex marriage. We’re so close. But right now, polls indicate that those who want it passed are leading by 5-7 points. So we need help. Just something to consider.