Saturday, December 20, 2008

No Unalloyed Joy

For many queer people and our allies, November 4th was not a day of celebration. For brief moments, sure, when the presidential race was called for Obama and as he gave his victory speech. In the latter, there was an entire 20-minute period when I was able to focus almost exclusively on that galvanizing moment in our country's history and witness a new page turning in American politics.

The glow faded back into anxiety within 30 seconds. The results of Prop 8 - by far harder to predict - were yet to come.

When the first vote tallies did come in, the news was bleak. The gap would narrow slightly before exhaustion drove us home (we'd been up since 5:00 that morning working on No on 8 visibility), but I felt isolated from the crowds of revellers we passed cheering in the streets.

As the passage of Prop 8 became official, I couldn't access much excitement about Obama's election. Relief I had big-time - McCain would've been disastrous - but sadness and grief were my constant companions. Having married my sweetie for yet a third time just weeks earlier, I took Prop 8 very, very personally. Not only had its passage snatched away my rights, but I also felt robbed of the joy that was rightfully mine on the occasion of Obama's historic election.

That's a big part of why Rick Warren's presence at the inauguration is so painful - once again, I can't simply celebrate Obama's victory. But this time, the joy thief is Obama himself.

I never expected our new President to be perfect, nor did I have any illusions about him being more progressive than he is. I just thought...for a few brief months...that this time, LGBT people wouldn't have to live with our dignity and hope and humanity in a lockbox for safekeeping.

You've wounded us deeply, Mr. Obama. I'm not sure you even understand how much. You've taken our sacred trust and shoved it down the back of our throats. You've sucker-punched us in our souls.

I was ready to heed your calls for sacrifice, and step up my public service even more, and give you enormous leeway because the mess left by your predecessor is unfathomably deep and wide.

Instead, I now feel I've pretty much done my part sacrificing on behalf of my country. I live openly as a bisexual woman with my openly bisexual wife - our very lives are a public service to this country, even before you get to all our other do-gooder work. And clearly, anti-LGBT bias is the one form of discrimination that's still acceptable (no proud anti-Semite or racist would ever have gotten the call Warren did), so we have our work cut out for us as it is.

Mr. Obama, the LGBT community was poised to stand by you as one of your staunchest allies. I understand all your reasons for inviting Mr. Warren (reaching across divides, you're everyone's President, etc.), but you could have expressed those same ideals with a far less divisive, hate-filled man. How does anyone win by you standing up and saying, "Even virulent homophobes have a place of respect in this country"?

Let me be clear: this isn't okay. A batterer may feel genuine love for his wife, but it's unhealthy for her to stick around after the first smack. The only way she'll return (assuming her self-respect was intact enough not to believe the abuse was acceptable) is if he does some serious soul-searching, gets help, demonstrates genuine remorse - and never, ever, ever treats her that way again.

Consider yourself being held accountable, Mr. Obama.

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