“If they know us, they don’t vote against us.”

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So said Harvey Milk.  Decades later, poll after poll (here’s the most recent one at Gallup) confirms this. Respondents’ positions on gay civil equality issues are hugely different when they actually know the LGBT people in their families and their lives. Sure, a surprising number continue to justify withholding constitutional protections from LGBT people even when they know us. But a majority who know us believe we deserve equality.  Clearly we must make ourselves known.

Many of us write the stories of our families’ lives online — you can find scores of them among Monday’s Blogging for LGBT Families Day  entries over at Mombian.  I’ll bet most of us began to chronicle our families so as to help keep one another company, maybe to solicit and share insight about how to pilot our families through the whitewaters we’re in as “alternative” families squarely in the political crosshairs.  That’s what motivated me, initially.  But we’re also writing for, and with, others. 

Two such Blogging for LGBT Families Day contributors are St from Playa Minded and Haley from eyeJunkie.  St is a straight and devout Christian ally, and in “Blogging for Equality,” she writes about research she’s done on New Testament scripture and homosexuality.  Haley is also straight and Christian and deeply examining the core truths in LGBT families, as well as her feelings about us. Her post, “The One Where I Come Out… And Say It” is amazingly honest, and heart-felt, showing those of us who would wish to touch someone like her just what it’s like to be in the middle of a challenging process of change.  Where this process will lead to, not even she knows.  But it’s very much worth bearing witness to. So are the comments following it.  Dana Rudolph drew attention to it at Mombian following Blogging for LGBT Families day, and today reposted her Mombian post at Bilerico.  If you haven’t read it yet, please do.

This whole conversation takes place at a very different register than the political debates online, or in the media, or the legislature, or the streets.  This whole conversation — the ones we invite when we tell our families’ stories — is told in anecdote, and deals in the currency of shared love for our partners and for the young people in our charge. This love is all-powerful.  Ironically, anti-gay ballot initiatives try to prey on that very feeling of parental protectiveness.  It’s been a predictable strategy, in 30 of 30 successful such battles nation-wide. But until we tell the stories of our own families, the only children in need of protection will appear to be the children of straight parents, not ours.  

This is changing, family by family, story by story, told in the local park, at the local grocery store, at church, synagogue, or temple, even online (you can tell yours right here, right now, at NoDumbQuestions.org). 

Days after Dana’s blog carnival expired, I’ve finally added an old story of my own to the list.  On Monday (and Tuesday, and Wednesday) I was still too-battle fatigued by the California Supreme Court decision, and by the flurry of activist debate regarding what next move we should make (how ’bout: all of ‘em! simultaneously!). I had succumbed to a combination of nihilism (comes and goes in fits, alas) and distraction.  Sometimes the sense that the house is on fire (cf Tuesday’s post) distracts me from the flowers growing outside the house. And sometimes — Haley’s post reminds me of this — sometimes, what I think are flames licking out from behind the house is actually the brilliance of the sun, blinding my vision for a moment.

The story I added to Dana’s list is one about my daughter’s and my trip to see a holiday performance of The Velveteen Rabbit, and a conversation with a woman we met on the subway ride home.  Here’s a bit of it:

The farther from home we get, the more I feel us assuming the mantle of exemplar: for better or worse, a public slice of queer family. The folks who just lost big in the recent election. I wonder, over the course of our commute, whether the love we casually radiate to one another does anything thematically specific for those around us. I wonder whether it makes those who voted for us feel a pride in their role in our state’s checkered social history, even if bittersweet. Those who voted against us are, at base, an enigma to me. I don’t really recognize them, when I see them. But I assume they recognize us. What with me being all butchly and all.

I wonder, when they get a chance to see, in person, part of a family whose rights were just rescinded: do they feel a catch of regret? I simply don’t know how to understand those who don’t – though I know many don’t: many look at me with my child and feel disgust, or concern, or pity; if they were to know she was born to my partner and not to me, I know many would think me an interloper. Nearly four people out of any given ten that I might see in my county thought some variation on this theme, and voted so.

In the train station, I wonder if they see how effortlessly I hoist my daughter into my arms for the escalator ride. How, as we perch ourselves at the base of the escalator to watch the people descend, or as we settle into our seat on the train ride into the city, how comfortably she drapes herself in my lap. How she picks up my hand and plays with the fingers, or pulls my baseball hat off and rubs her hand on my hair.

Before the vote, such moments felt more freighted. They felt – to me, at least – as if they were all impromptu lobbying moments. Actual people whose legal recognitions and protections were on the line. A pair of faces to help the undecided people make the abstractions real. That woman, there; that child. It is their bond I’m respecting, and protecting. Or not.

The rest of “Pas de deux” is here.  Thanks for reading, and thank you for telling your story, wherever and however you do.

One Response to “If they know us, they don’t vote against us.”

  1. Lesbian Dad June 10, 2009 at #

    Addendum, coupla days later: At Box Turtle Bulletin, a post on how some can twist these Gallup poll results (showing increasing support for same-sex marriage, once folks know they know gay people).

    Read “Support For Same-Sex Marriage Is Like Catching Cooties” June 4, 2009. The title says it all: bad company corrupts good morals.

    Okay, that’s one way to look at it.

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