This past week has been full of ups and downs for me. I'm sad I left "Rage" for this essay, mainly because I think what we really need right now is to embody the courage, calm and focus that Barack Obama used in becoming President Elect. He endured ridiculous circumstances and ignorance with dignity. He never complained. He never cried. He never seemed angry enough to smack John McCain in their debates. I would have. I could never be president. I would definitely let my rage spill out. I did. Every time I heard "my friends," I would swear and sweat and seethe. But Obama didn't do that. He just smiled and looked into our eyes all across America and beyond, assuring us he would, he could. And he did.
If this essay were about crying I would write about how sorry I am for all the same sex couples (numbering nearly 20,000) who got married in California this past summer, and whose relationships now hang in the balance, waiting to find out if their nuptials are null and void.
I would tell you how sorry I am for those who got engaged in hopes that they would be able to get married but now cannot.
I would write about how my eyes welled up and the tears spilled out of me on election night, when the Proposition 8 "Yes" votes outnumbered the "No" votes in California.
I would write about how angry and frustrated I felt, standing outside the gates protecting the Mormon Church on Sunset Blvd, wondering who and what could protect our rights.
I don't want to write about rage, but I have certainly felt it this past week. I felt it most when the girl I am dating -- who has never dated a girl before -- collapsed in her car and cried after the Prop 8 rally. She wondered aloud if we wouldn't make more progress by just crying rather than yelling and being angry. I've wondered this a lot myself. Is it in part our anger and our frustration that adds to their anger and judgment?
I've felt personal rage because I've worked so hard to win over this girl, and now in the wake of a new relationship, I'm spending most of my time focusing on and reflecting the hatred and judgment some people feel for those of us who are in same-sex relationships and marriages. It's like telling someone your house is totally worth buying, but the only issue is that everyone on the block hates your house because it's the only one on the block with a single-car garage instead of a double. Ignoring the fact that, regardless of how it looks from the outside, yours is filled with the same love, compassion, and values.
I feel rage when I imagine the Prop Yes people celebrating, thinking they've won something, when, in fact, they've just stolen something.
I feel rage when I pour over the parallels between this civil rights movement and the ones of our past.
I feel rage when I read the statistics on who voted Yes. You'd think minorities and Mormons would specifically understand the burn of judgment, ignorance and prejudice.
But my rage is slowly transforming. It started as a rock in my stomach. Then a fire in my heart. Yesterday it was a fog in my mind. As the days have passed, I'm becoming focused and I am starting to feel brave again. I want to rally and march and be proud. This morning I felt triumphant. 67% of people who voted No on Prop 8 were under 30! Change is coming! As Melissa Etheridge wrote in a recent article, "Gay people are born everyday. You'll never legislate that away."
As I type, I feel hopeful. Look how far we have come! As an example, below are some quotes from Paul Martin, the former Prime Minister of Canada, who, three years ago, stood before Parliament and defended the rights of gay people. I hope they give you the antidote you might need to turn back the effects of the rage you might be feeling in the wake of the Prop 8 debacle. Let it instead inspire you the way it did me. Let it promote movement and organization on your part to continue the fight for civil rights for all people. Let it remove the stain of this Proposition and instead give way to change.
"The rights of Canadians who belong to a minority group must always be protected by virtue of their status as citizens, regardless of their numbers. These rights must never be left vulnerable to the impulses of the majority."
"We must always remember that 'separate but equal' is not equal."
"We all are lessened when any one of us is denied a fundamental right."
"Our rights must be eternal, not subject to political whim."
"Over time, perspectives changed. We evolved, we grew, and our laws evolved and grew with us. That is as it should be. Our laws must reflect equality not as we understood it a century or even a decade ago, but as we understand it today."
–Paul Martin, former Prime Minister of Canada
I have been living in Montreal for six years. Montreal -- and Canada in general -- has the reputation for being a more lenient, understanding and open-minded country. Although I am grateful for the legislation that has made me "equal" in the eyes of the law, you cannot legislate away people's disgust or ignorance. You can't remove the stinging intolerance and slurs of homophobic audience members' words in my ears. For any minority, this seems to come with the territory. What helps me hold my head above water is the understanding that I am legally equal in the eyes of my country. I pay taxes, I obey the law, and I respect my place in the community and strive to be successful in it. I want to be inspiring, a role model. I am fueled by the idea that my life as a message dismantles the public's image of gay people as sexual deviants, as less than, as being abnormal.
Sadly, I've managed to find discordant messages in my own community. The most heartbreaking judgment, the most powerful resistance, is in the hearts of those who are gay themselves. I know this could extend to any minority who developed their sense of self and their self-worth based on projections of "normalcy" in the world around them. We're overwhelmed with institutionalized homophobia, sexism, racism and classism. Feast on this your whole life and it's no wonder most of us battle to accept who we are. I could deconstruct the sexism in the gay community, the apathy of those who can disappear into "normal," who avoid supporting the fringe for fear of being associated with it. It goes beyond sex, or haircuts. It's truly disheartening that we can't come together to demand fairness. It's a human rights issue. Taxation without representation is right, Melissa Etheridge! Shame and fear keep us from demanding tolerance and acceptance. It divides us, our communities, our families and keeps us from connecting to the courage that is needed right now.
I attended a wedding recently. As my cousin walked down the isle, her arm linked with her father's, I was moved to tears. The sudden rush of emotion was complicated for me. I love my cousin, and I felt astounding happiness for her. I watched as her fiancé's eyes welled up with tears and I felt overcome. My parents' wedding photos were my favorite when I was a kid. They divorced when I was five, but I loved the way my mom looked, her dress spread out around her on the lawn of my grandparents' funny brown bungalow. My dad, his hair full of ringlets and his unruly beard, standing with the wedding party, not wearing socks in his shoes. I didn't understand marriage but I loved the ceremony of it. I was sad that my parents' marriage dissolved. I was romantic and I wondered if one day I would have children staring at photos of me on my wedding day. I still do. It's what I want for my life. Marriage, love, kids, strange outfits, and awkward photos of cakes being cut and books being signed. I'm not religious, but my second favorite set of photos are of Tegan and I being baptized. I love how unkempt my parents look holding us, we're blooming out of our baby blankets, in the arms of our relatives. The ceremony. What it means. Burned into my mind, my heart. I want the right to choose that ceremony for my life. To celebrate my relationship and my commitment. As of 2005, I, as a Canadian, can marry. It is truly sad for me to think that there are millions of people like me, who cannot access these rights, these customs.
"Gay marriage" is not what is at stake. It's the right to choose to marry, the right to benefits, the right to adopt, the right to access the same set of rights extended to every citizen in the United States of America. Those rights do not extend to homosexuals. And it's f---ed up. And you should care, straight or gay, white or black. Canadian or American.
i'm sure this is tl;dr for a lot of people, but i really loved what they had to say on the topic of prop 8 and how passionate both of them are about it.