Tuesday was quite the night. Like Celeste, I found my way to Grant Park (coveted tickets for the official campaign event in hand) and joined the crowd of a hundred thousand gathered to scream, cry, hug, and jump our way into a new spirit of hopefulness that is solidifying around us.
Besides Obama’s victory, there was another vote that meant a lot to me on Tuesday, and left a lingering bittersweetness to the otherwise perfect night: Proposition 8 amended the California constitution to define legal marriage as exclusive to opposite-sex couples, overturning the decision of the Supreme Court and ending the right of California same-sex couples to the legal protections of marriage for the near future.
Initial reaction: rage. I found someone who expressed this very very well:
Ultimately, though, rage against injustice must energize something else, something life-affirming.
I’m going to outline here my current thoughts on all this, still pretty half-baked, as part of my process of coming to peace with the step backwards that PropH8 represents for gay rights. (By the way, I’m using the word gay to express things about the whole queer community in general just because it’s something I can talk about closest to my own experience.) Here’s are the suppositions I start with:
First, gay people (like everyone) exist as part of creation for a purpose. If we weren’t supposed to be here we wouldn’t be here. I can in no way define all the possibilities that are contained in what we as gay people can offer the rest of creation, but in my own reflection, I think it has a lot to do with creativity, with nurturing people/animals/places that are marginal & outcast, with being especially sensitive to spiritual life, with inventing & demonstrating alternate possibilities for patterns of living, with acting as a bridge between genders. I’m not saying that all gay people have these traits or that straight people can’t have them, but rather that (I think) gay people tend to have more natural proclivities toward these, and that they experience of being gay and the connections & relationships within the gay community offer a special fostering & blossoming of these traits.
I believe (or want to believe, choose to believe) in a vision like MLK’s “blessed community” where queer people’s talents and gifts play a vital, integrated role in the life of the community as a whole, especially in the arts, in spiritual life, in working with nature, working with disabled & marginalized people.
Our place goes beyond these roles too – I don’t think we’re just a “bonus” to humanity. I think that we are an absolutely essential element to society throughout history, destabilizing the rigid structures that would otherwise cage & consume everyone’s spirits. If it weren’t for us, hierarchical religious structures, strict gender roles, unbreakable prescriptive sexual norms, and all kinds of prohibitions on art & expression would be vastly stronger
So I think this is where queer people and those who are close to our community need to come back to as we move forward in our battle for equal civil rights. I think that one negative aspect of this battle is that, by being overshadowed by the role of the oppressed victim, we still deny and fail to realize our own potential good for the role we can play in society. Yes, we have been and are still under great (but dissipating) violence and oppression. To truly win free of this our hope and strength can’t lie in simply aspiring to have what everyone else has. We need to realize our true strength as a community and as individuals. Coming from this strength, our claim on legal rights will be undeniable, and the good we offer to society will overwhelm the effects of the violence of the past and bring everyone a bit closer to the blessed community.
Still… #@$% the bigots. I can’t completely let go of that sentiment either.