Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Oranges After Sex

In trying to hack out another weekly post, I realized that I have yet to tap into the question of gay federal rights and marriage.  I think I was wary of it because in the past, whenever I have researched gay rights cases and lawsuits and the slow progression for civil rights, I invariably want to turn off my computer.  I realized that this isn't exactly helpful; there has to be a way to feel informed without feeling hopeless, right?  Anyway, with the repeal of DADT (Don't Ask, Don't Tell) I decided to focus on the other recent battle ground for human rights:  Gay Marriage.

Freedom To Marry Straight

To start off, I feel like it's important to just remind myself where the majority is coming from.  Human civilization around the world has had roughly 5,000 years of recorded history, beginning with the ancients (Chinese, Egyptian, Greek, etc.).  Of course, the majority, if not all relationships that have been recorded and remembered generation to generation, are straight ones.  Now queers have had...pockets of years (Oscar Wilde had a good ten or so flaunting it just on his own--he's a diva like that).

But, let's factor in that a good 4,000 to 4,900 years of straight relationships were definitely only about economic relations between families, and definitely not marrying for love.  Now factor in non-existent equal marriage rights amongst men and women for the majority of those years.  Now factor in the non-existent equal marriage rights amongst men and women of different colors, economic statuses and/or religious backgrounds.

Really, heterosexuals have only had a few good decades up on us gaygoobers when it comes to true freedom to marry.  It's weird to think so, but straight couples openly being straight and into each other, without their families' consent, without the sanction of a god, and without a ritual of marriage to okay them to consummate their love, is kind of still revolutionary for most of the world--and for most of the world, it is still not allowed.

So, I can't really blame any of us for not knowing how to open up a dialogue about homosexuality; it's kind of like human sexuality has been holding it's tongue for a long, long time and it's just now starting to clear it's throat--we're getting ready to finally speak, but the first words are still going to be croaks.

And yet...

Gays Got It Bad And That Ain't Good.

I love California; we have a very unique culture here that changes every five feet, it feels.  However, I've noticed that California is also a bit like a squealing baby sometimes; we kick and whine and rush into putting things on ballots without really examining whether or not a popular vote, given that we have such a huge and variable population, is the way to decide what EVERYONE here should do.  Prop 8 was a scandal in the sense that my right to something I want in my life (federally recognized marriage) was put up for a 50/50 vote.  Furthermore, it made it clear that marriage in California is still a religious ceremony, as opposed to an economic contract with your partner of choice.  But, not all states have been stumped on this.  Some really have affirmed the separation of church and state.

Iowa

IOWA, you guys.

Iowa legalized gay marriage before California.  Again, I feel the urge to try to understand the majority, i.e., the moderate, white heterosexual mind a bit better.  I need to understand the frame of mind that would rather not understand me--and then perhaps I can better my attempts to open up a conversation.  

*Cue hypothetical scene music*


I am imagining I am in a grocery store.


When all of a sudden...





I am approached by a haggard-looking man.  His name is Bob.  Bob has a problem, and really needs help.

Bob:  "Beryl--look.  I REALLY need your help."

See?

Me: "Uh...o...kay... what's up Bob?"

Bob:  "Look, I..."  (Bob glances away, nervous)

Me: "Yes...?"

Bob: "I really need to tell you something."

Me:  "Ok...what is it?"

Bob:  "Well...I uh...oh god...this is so hard.  But, I figure I can trust you.  You can keep a secret, right?"

Me:  "Bob, you're scaring me.  What's wrong?"

Bob: "I..." (Shuts eyes) "Ireallylovetoeatorangesaftersex."

Me: (Freaks out) "Oh holy mother.  Jesus Bob!  Why are you telling ME and especially so near the produce!"

Bob:  "I know, I know--but, COME ON, I mean...it's not like I'm going to go grab an oran--"

Me:   (Plugs ears) "I DON'T WANT TO HEAR DETAILS!"

Bob:  "Ok, ok, ok--I was...uh...ok, look.  Please, you gotta help me--They're going to fire me!"

Me:  "Wait--what?"

Bob:  "I'm going to lose my job.  Someone from the office found out somehow, I don't know how and, and they've been trying to blackmail me--leaving orange peels everywhere for other people to see."

Me:  "Oh man.  That sucks."

Bob:  "Yes, I know!  Please, can you just--can you just make it your business for the two seconds that I need it and vote in favor of Prop-Citrus?  The vote is going up in two weeks and that could save my job--my life!"

Me:  "Oh...uh... Yea.  Sure.  Sure."

Bob:  "THANK YOU!  Oh, god.  What am I going to do in the meantime?"

Me:  (Putting down lime slowly) "I don't know.  But, you know, I have to...go now...I have to go do that thing that I...needed to do."

Bob:  "Oh, of course.  Yea, of course.  You should go do that thing."

I start to move away.

Bob:  "Beryl, you won't forget about Prop-Citrus, right?"

Me:  "Hm?  Oh, yea.  No, totally."

I walk away, quickly this time, trying to shake off the uncomfortable moment of being asked to take an active stance in something that has nothing to do with me.

*End of Hypothetical Sequence*

I mean.

I could TOTALLY see myself doing that.  I have been that person, probably more than once, who really was uncomfortable being dragged into someone else's personal life problems.  But, having been in Bob's shoes...having to go through my tweens, watching movie after movie that ends in one tux and one white dress--or just any Shakespeare comedy, really--seeing all the other girls at school go through the motions of dreaming up their future legal weddings, I have no choice but to care.

So, I hate to make things awkward.  I hate to drag you into this.  But, I'm making Prop-Citrus your issue.  If I have to have your permission en mass to just live my life without the fear of being kept from my future wife in a hospital because I'm "not family" or perhaps loosing custody of my future kids because I didn't give birth to them, then I won't shut up until that is no longer true.  I'm still here, and I'm still very much not allowed to get married.  Remember that.

Now, I've tried to understand where you (i.e., moderate straight person) are coming from on the basic level that it's way easier to just not care about "someone else's" problem.  So, let's try to understand a wholly different scenario that was very much not hypothetical and happened very recently.

Iowa Again 

It's 2007.  You are a gaygoober.  A District Court ruled in favor of six same-sex couples who were denied marriage licenses--you are in one of these couples.  By the way, as part of this group, you filed this lawsuit back in 2005.  So imagine, for two years you've already been fighting for your right to be federally recognized; you've been sinking money into this thing, meanwhile your unrecognized-marriage is going through stress that leaves you and your partner isolated from your family, not to mention your home state.  Plus, your future livelihood is dependent on a court that has definitely not been voting in your favor for the past, well, ever.

Now, after the District Court had its say, the county appealed it--because apparently, the county really, really, really doesn't like oranges after sex--and pushes this question of whether you get to be with the person you love and not be screwed financially for it all the way up to the state supreme court, where everyone you know is now going to know your personal life is up for debate.

Another two years go by.  You're left hanging on the results of the case, even on the day that the Court was supposed to deliver a decision.  But, then a decision is made.  And magically--absolutely and utterly magically, the Supreme Court holds that there is no important government interest in denying citizens marriage licenses based on sexual orientation.  It is now 2009.

You've been working for four years, with no guarantee of a win, and your entire country is staring at you to see if you get slammed for sticking your neck out or become one of the first legally married gaygoobers in Iowa.  But, after all that, you can get married.

Now you just have to make sure that you and your partner still want to get married after all that crap.

Adding Public Polls To Injury

Did you know btws, that in 2009, 92% of Iowa respondents to a public poll said "marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples had led to 'no real change' in their own lives"?  I can only imagine what those couples must have felt like.  Their lives have been changed forever, and were dragged through hell to gain equal rights, meanwhile the majority of the population concedes that whoospy-daisy, turns out gay marriage didn't really affect them after all.


In a way, it's like Iowa proved what is inevitable in the next stage of civl rights progression; we all just gotta find a way to not care anymore.  The baseline is equal federal rights.  And after that...who knows?

-Beryl

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