Friday, May 4, 2012

To Know Us Is To Love Us?

        For a long time, Danielle and I have been floating around in a bubble.  To be sure, it's a beautiful bubble and a cheerful one.  If it had a noise, it would sound like children's laughter.  Its color is the yellow of sunlight streaming through a window.  Its insides are filled with the lightness of easy confidence and a naive faith in, well, the goodness of us.  Encapsulated in this bubble, Danielle and I sincerely believed that if people opposed to gay marriage or homosexuality in general simply got to know us, they would have a change of heart and reconsider their beliefs on the subject.  That they would vote for our civil rights and not against them.  That they would become our advocates.  I mean, surely they would like us.
      And so we struck out, full of idealism and the determination to be the best little gay ambassadors anyone had ever seen.  It was a charge we took seriously, and we did it with gusto.  Striving to be the textbook definition of "fine upstanding citizens", we paid our bills on time, paid taxes without complaint, and got not so much as a speeding ticket.  We recycled as if we got paid by the pound (still do), and, to Danielle's dismay, I even picked up discarded cans lying in parking lots.  To this day, if you pass us on the street as we're walking our dog, you are likely to see us toting two- count 'em- two poop bags just in case our pooch decides to get overly ambitious about blessing the neighborhood with free fertilizer.  We own a house that we responsibly maintain.  We care about curb appeal and property value.  We work in service professions and devote a great deal of our personal time and personal finances to our work.  We support local businesses and use fuel-efficient cars to take us to them.  We give 20 percent tips.  We teach Sunday School.  Other than being lesbians, we've done everything we were "supposed to" do.
    Our diplomatic powers seemed to work, and people were, in fact, changed as our lives intersected with theirs.  Our lifestyle was incongruous with all the stereotypes they had been fed.  We were not godless and immoral.  We never invited them to orgies, and not once did we wear leather and chains.  We put an ordinary, human face on homosexuality.  Suddenly, the abstract became personal.  The same people who once wanted to restrict the rights of gays now got fairly riled up against placing said restrictions on Danielle and Elaine.  Being able to watch this evolution in some friends and family members was a profound and powerful experience.  This is, after all, the stuff that makes you believe in humanity.
     It is no wonder, then, that our bubble floated on.
     When the bubble finally burst, it felt more like an explosion.  Danielle was reading an article online and came upon a quote from a colleague of hers who was speaking in favor of North Carolina's Amendment One, a proposed constitutional amendment to limit marriage to a man and woman.  This was not a case of some casual acquaintance running her mouth; rather, this was a friend we had invited to our wedding.  This was a woman who had shared countless conversations with Danielle about fertility and all the ups and downs that come with trying to start a family.  How could she talk, laugh with, and advise Danielle on the crazy world of family planning and then vote to undermine the very family we are striving to create?  Was she only tolerating us and simply pretending to be open-minded?  How could she betray my Beloved in this way?  How was it possible, I wondered, for anyone to meet Danielle and not be compelled to fight for her?
     Even in my anger, I knew we had learned a powerful and important lesson: prejudice is one friggin' knotted ball of twine, and it won't be unwound without much time and painstaking effort.  Sometimes personal relationships are not enough.  Sometimes the quiet example of an honorable life persuades no one.  Sometimes, no matter how hard we work to be "good", it won't be good enough.
     This betrayal was extremely hurtful, a punch in the gut preserved in the black and white of print.  It was a low point in our journey.  Our once shiny, delirious bubble had been reduced to a slimy puddle at our feet.  However, there was a much more hopeful lesson in store for us: as much as people can disappoint you, they can also surprise you in the most marvelous of ways.
     We learned this second lesson via Facebook when a friend of ours began speaking out against Amendment One in a very public, passionate, and vocal manner.  She posted videos, forwards, quotes, and even Bible verses to explain her reasons for fighting against the amendment.  And boy did she catch a lot of flak for her stance!  Our parents did not reject or reprimand us for being gay, but she experienced friction within her family simply because she is supportive of gay rights.  Sometimes Danielle and I become so caught up in our own struggles and battles that we forget how much courage it can take to stand up publicly as an ally of the gay community.  In a note our friend sent to us, she recounted her experience, "I live in a tiny little town and got yelled at by my dad the other day because I am telling EVERYONE on Facebook that "I love gays" (his words, not mine)...... Well, after my dad yelled at me I "accidentally" left some of the videos about Christians who are against the amendment up on his computer before I left the room. He shortly after came and apologized, saying he would educate himself more before making a vote."
     Our friend's life will not be affected one iota by the Amendment One vote.  She does not have anything personal to gain from its passage or rejection.  Even so, she is risking rebuff from her family, friends, and faith community.  She is doing so in the name of justice and because her faith compels her to do so.  She is also doing so because she is our friend- our true friend- and friends don't let their friends get pushed out or pushed around.  Even after attracting controversy, she held fast to her position and never let up on trying to persuade others to bend in the direction of equality and justice.  These days, she is my heroine and a far better ambassador for the cause than Danielle and I could have hoped to be.
     While I cannot pretend to be thankful for all of the hullabaloo about Amendment One, I can at least admit that there might be a few roses hidden in this thorny patch.  Danielle and I are reminded that bubbles, lovely as they are, do pop.  Putting unreasonable amounts of faith in people can, at times, be as futile as trying to will a bubble to stay intact on a windy day.  However, there are times people can fill your heart with such hope and optimism that you feel you could burst with happiness. 
     So forget bubbles.  Friends on a mission- now there is something to marvel at.

1 comment:

  1. The only thing here I disagree with is the idea that someone who isn't in a relationship or domestic situation directly affected by this amendment won't be hurt by it. Our whole country will diminished if it passes. It hurts everyone.