Friday, October 26, 2012

A Careful Path of Hope and Wariness

Today marks my 5 year anniversary of being cancer free. When people ask me how I feel, I tell them I feel good. I do. But I also feel tired. I'm tired because of the Epstein Barr and the vitamin deficiency that I will have to deal with for the rest of my life. The doTERRA essential oils and supplements help with that.
I guess what I have been feeling lately is not as simple as a physical tiredness, it is more of a weariness rooted in wariness that has nothing to do with my physical health.  In order to explain my, I have to rewind the clock.
I came out as a lesbian to my family and friends 23 years ago this coming January. It was scary and hard, but I had the fire and conviction of youth to spur me on to activism and being in-your-face out.  I went to every pride event I could find.  I used to go to gay bars often, and lesbian dances & concerts, and, of course, the Michigan Womyn's Festival fed my soul like no other place.  I felt safe in that world where women’s voices and women’s lives mattered, no matter their sexual orientation.  I felt surrounded by people who were like me.  Not just queer, but living in our convictions that we were justified in our anger against the establishment, the misogynistic patriarchy.
I met my beloved partner while singing in a mostly lesbian chorus, we sang together for a couple of years, getting to know one another as friends before going on our first date (she brought me a plant).  Deb and I celebrated our 18 year anniversary last June.  Our relationship has lasted longer than most legal marriages in the United States these days. We are in love more now than we were then.  I have a good job with benefits.  Deb and I have a house with a beautiful yard with an underwater mortgage.  Most of my friends are settled and raising amazing kids. I go to a great, welcoming church and I even step into the pulpit or sing there now and then. Really, other than the fact that we cannot get legally married in our state, or have our state recognize it if we get married somewhere else, we live a “normal” life like millions of other Americans.
On a grander scale, since the day I mailed my coming out letters to my family… Gay marriage has been legalized in a some places. There are new treatments for HIV so it is no longer a death sentence for so many of our beautiful young men (and women).  Our country elected our first black president. He repealed Don't Ask Don't Tell. He ordered the justice department to stop defending the unconstitutional Defense Against Marriage Act. He signed a bill making it easier for women to file complaints against employers who pay them less than men for the same work.  And, he came out publicly in favor of gay marriage -which he at first was against, but said he was evolving on the issue-evolve he did!   Equal rights for everyone is on this year’s Democratic National platform.  Now being a dyke doesn't feel so dangerous anymore.  I no longer go to pride festivals as a political protest.  On the rare occasion that I do go to pride, I now think of them as a huge coming out, coming home party.  We have gone to festival twice since being together, and I am confident that the next generation will legalize gay marriage, sometime in my lifetime.  I trust in their ability to transform the world.  I guess you could say I have become complacent. 
Because of that complacency, I have been caught very off guard this election season, which brings me back around to that feeling of weariness.  I am weary of having to be wary of anything that resembles advancements in LGBTQ rights.  
Twenty two years ago, I could point to more concrete obstacles to justify my anger and unease.  No states recognized gay marriage.  Heck, until the religious right began to preach about the dangers of gay marriage, it had never occurred to most of us that that would ever be an option!  It seemed that only the gay community cared that HIV was killing off what seemed like was a whole generation of beautiful, talented young men.  One of my family members announced that I was not allowed to be near his daughters, and another told me not to talk about being lesbian, and to not bring a lover home for the holidays. I had a friend who was kicked out of their rental house when the landlord found out she was a lesbian.  I had at least two more who had been fired for being gay.  I was even trapped in a corner of my mom’s kitchen while one of my siblings told me that she loves me and is very sad that she will never get to see me in heaven.  Lesbians and gay men were routinely losing custody of their children simply because of their sexual orientation. And teenagers were being banned from bringing their same sex partners (or perceived partners) to their proms.  So we had our own gay prom!  Soldiers and marines who were gay risked losing their pensions, their commissions, and their reputations if anyone found out.  The same went for teachers.  I regularly sat on panels to educate college students and teachers as to what it meant to be a lesbian.  I risked my life, literally, if I held my partner’s hand while walking down the street.  When I reported death threats against me for being lesbian, the cop advised me not to file the complaint because I might be labeled and “you wouldn’t want anyone thinking you were that way”.
And now, so many things seem to have changed.  Yet, this election has really brought back my old sense of urgency to stand up and be heard.  I find myself posting more LGBTQ links and pictures than I was before this election season (although I’m probably posting less than I would have if Facebook had been alive 20 years ago).  One presidential candidate has endorsed the rights of LGBTQ people to marry the love of their lives, the love of my life.  One candidate has signed a pledge to support a constitutional amendment banning my partner and I from ever getting married anywhere in the land of the free and the home of the brave, the country where I pay taxes and the country where I was born and will likely die.  He has vowed to tax me and not to represent me, yet he has the backing of the tea partiers, who claim to be all about fighting taxation without representation. 

So, I am weary of having to stay on guard and continue to fight.  I was getting lazy and complacent and trusting that the next generation would fix it.  I didn’t count on my generation jumping in and interfering again and pushing for fear and injustice.  I am wary of trusting any of the few bits of progress that have been made in LGBT rights.  We used to say “we are everywhere”.  Now, not only are we everywhere, but we are no longer invisible.  I mistook visibility for inevitability of gaining rights.  Ellen Degeneres and Will and Grace may have begun to transform popular culture, but evidently not popular politics.  Recent polls say that 62% of Americans are in favor of gay marriage.  So, how can a candidate that has vowed to outlaw gay marriage be claiming 47% of the vote?  (Is that the same 47% he said he didn’t give a rip about?)

So, I am weary and wary, and my political hackles are up in a way that they haven’t been since the 1992 election, when we elected a president that we thought would open the armed forces to lesbian and Gay patriots.  Oops. That was a mistake. The policy went from recruiters asking if recruits have ever been involved in a homosexual experience, to “don’t ask don’t tell”.  At the time, we celebrated, thinking it was an improvement.  Instead, it became a weapon against our own soldiers, marines and sailors.  A weapon wielded with hatred and fear, and bashing many who were trying to protect those who had turned against them.  Wary?  Yes. Weary? Yes. Ever hopeful and convinced that eventually justice will prevail? Yes.