All this talk about Prop 8 is really just making me sad and angry. Yes, there's hope, it's only a matter of time, it is an inevitability, the legal arguments are all there, eventually our cause will win even in the harsher courts of public opinion, yada yada yada. So why do I feel so fucked up? Why do I feel so damned betrayed when I hear my well-intentioned gay brethren say that we have to stop suing and make nice with the public before we can win the courts? That's just ignorant. That's mere denial. Change of this caliber never begins with the public, though it is important to note that it is eventually cemented and flourishes inside public opinion. To be frank, I don't really care if we piss people off by being litigious, because the court is where things happen! If it were up to the public at large to change things, we would all be screwed. It requires leadership for a nation of this size and diversity to change fundamentally. The herd, unfortunately, will not lead itself to the pasture.
Look... It does me no good to walk down the street and get 20 people to agree that I am a perfectly nice lesbian and a decent American who has the right to marry my partner of many years. There are another 20 (at least) waiting around the corner to try to ex-gay me, to physically assault me, to call me a fat dyke, to tell me I'm confused, to explain why their deity has compelled them to vote away my rights again and again, to shriek that I am taking something special away from them, to shield their children from my gaze, to openly express distaste, and to impose their personal beliefs on my civil life. Somewhere, my gay brethren assert, there are another ten lurking about in the shadows, another ten who are ambivalent, or on the fence, or don't really care what anybody does, or sort of think that being gay is gross but don't really mind if we want to get married, or think that marriage is kind of stupid and that it's odd we would desire it, or "have some gay friends" and are sympathetic but kind of think that marriage is a hetero thing. These ten, my comrades assert, are the prizes. Whoever wins their support will have the ever-so-treasured majority of public opinion.
Um, fuckin' ridiculous. I reject that completely. It's supposed to be my job to convince people who don't really give a shit about anything, or whose distaste for me is merely mild or generic or solely secular in nature, that I'm a whole person and an equal American citizen? Hell with that. My optimistic brethren assert that simply by living long enough among these 10 people, and even among some of the nastier 20, that American gays will win hearts and minds, like the nice and funny gays on Will and Grace did. We're harmless, we're normal, we're jolly, we sweetly and docilely wait on the sidelines for our fair shake. We would never sue you. Come see us in our natural habitats, from WeHo, the Village, and the Castro, on into the suburbs and rural America. Gosh, we're just like you!
This may sound terrible... but I don't need any of those 50 people to be OK with my sexuality, my relationships, my personal "choices", or my "lifestyle". Granted, it can be surprising, encouraging, and make a great difference in my day, or my life, when I encounter the supportive ones; however, that support neither solely nor primarily endows me with the freedom to live my life as I see fit, no matter how it alleviates my burden and lifts my spirits. Only the rule of law can guarantee that, and when it comes to minority rights, that rule is not up to the majority; thank goodness, because the majority rarely espouses the rights of the minority, particularly in the case where as pervasive an influence as the Church has convinced them that we are taking something away from them that God gave especially to them. I do not blame all believers, and I have been personally buoyed by many who gave their time, money, and understanding to our cause. In fact, I don't much tend to blame the people themselves, even the nasty ones. They are only repeating what they have been taught, on the behalf of an Authority that they believe is absolute.
Which brings me to my point... there will be plenty of people who can never be convinced that we deserve equality, just as surely as there are blatant racists in our country today, even after all of the progress that has been made. The black man sitting at the lunch counter didn't need the white patrons to feel great about him sitting there, though it surely couldn't have hurt; he needed the power of the law, the edicts of the court behind him, to make certain they knew that no matter what they felt about it, he had the right to sit there just as they did. The black girl ascending the steps into the school filled with white students didn't need the other students or their parents to be okay with her presence, although if they had been, maybe she wouldn't have needed the armed detail; she needed only for them to understand that the law was on her side, and she was acting as it was her right to do. This was her right, which many would say was "God-given"; this was her right, in fact hers by birth as an American citizen, anyone's religious beliefs notwithstanding.
Just as relevant, if perhaps less palatable to many: John Lawrence and Tyron Gardner didn't need the Texas cops who barged into the apartment to be happy about catching them entwined; they simply needed the court to make it perfectly clear that what they were doing was no crime. Remember this, if you start to feel too optimistic about our current situation; these men were arrested ten years ago, and the case was decided a touch over five years ago. Up until that point, it was still illegal to engage in homosexual activity in several states. FIVE YEARS AGO. In fact, the 2000 measure to ban gay marriage in the California civil code, with the much-touted 61%-39% result, took place when the federal legal precedent was that gay folks had no particular rights to privacy or anything else that others enjoyed. Not terribly surprising, right? What I do find surprising is that now, eight years later, gays are no longer on trial in the legal sense, even if they remain so in the sociocultural sense, and yet, in eight years, even with our personal lives decriminalized, we've only managed to convince 9% of Californians that gay marriage is OK? Even with us "living amongst them" in domestic partnerships, first the "lite" variety, then the full-blown sort established in 2005? And even including the unknown, but possibly significant, percentage of Californians who had no problem adjusting the civil code but balked at amending the Constitution?
These people, the Californians, as a whole possibly some of the most tolerant and socially moderate people in the country, are the ones I'm supposed to trust with the basic expressions of my humanity? Can I vote to only trust half of them? The other half, or just a bit more in fact, will plainly not be reliable in that regard. But I'm supposed to break 'em down and convince them, of what, that I'm cool? Not gonna prey on their daughters? My gay male friends are OK to teach their children? And.... you want me to shout louder than the preachers in their pulpits? Because no matter how long we "live next door" or "work at the same place" or "send our kids to the same school", that sound of entitlement coming from their faiths is one I can not drown out, no matter how normal and adorable I become.
Know what? Thanks to the ACLU and friends, I won't have to, because the rule of law is on my side... and that means that someday, being accepted for who I am can go back to being a simple joy, as opposed to an obnoxious and burdensome agenda.