On the evolution of the political class regarding marriage equality.

stonewall-300x202I’m seeing a lot of moaning, groaning, dismissal, and general snark about the fact that ALL OF A SUDDEN, it’s politically expedient for national politicians to say that they support marriage equality.

Coupla things.

First of all, these are politicians. These are people whose literal bread and butter rests in judging the public mood and working to achieve a political end which will enable them to continue to earn their bread and butter. For the most part, radical politicians don’t get remembered because they don’t get elected, and elected politicians who think outside their party’s box either have to walk very carefully and learn how to pick battles and balance needs, or they get primaried. You will recall that Barney Frank himself didn’t come out until he was already in the Senate House, and he reports that he “almost lost on suspicion.”

Second, this is how society goes. There’s a problem — A Big Problem — such as slavery, or women’s right to participate in the democratic process, or the denial of civil rights to LGBTQ Americans, and outliers recognize it before anyone else. They lead their people to freedom on dark roads, or they risk violence to go to Seneca Falls, or they build barricades outside the Stonewall Inn in heels and a feather boa, and they shout righteousness to the world. They shame us, so we ignore them, we demonize them, we try to silence them, we often try to kill them. We do this, again and again, with varying levels of violent intent, but even as we do, a few more people hear the shouts, a few more people see the humans doing the shouting, and a few more people come around. A little. They come around a little, and then a little more, and then they bring a few more people with them, because while they may not be shouting, they’re speaking, and now, now, now, the edges of the mainstream are talking and seeing the world in a different light, and the shouts and the speaking goes on, and now, now, now, the edges close in closer to each other and we still try to ignore them, and demonize them, and silence them, and we still kill them, but there are more and more voices, more shouts and more whispers and more people standing silent witness and now, now, now — the mainstream sees. The mainstream changes. The outliers, the freaks, the demons become the pioneers, the leaders, the role models. And now: That’s where we are. The mainstream has changed.

The world would be a better place if all people could equally value the shared human dignity of all people — but we don’t do that. We never, ever have. We have to be taught, again and again, not to hate (whatever the song from South Pacific might have us think). And the only way people will be taught, is if other people do it.

I’m not contained in any of the letters in “LGBTQ,” so if someone who is wants to tell me to take a seat, I will find a seat and take it. But for my money, this is not a day for snark, but a day for genuine joy — let us rejoice and be glad in it! (To borrow a phrase).

It is a fine thing when the bandwagon jumpers jump on the wagon of social justice. It is a fine thing when politicians begin to repeat the words that we’ve been saying for years. Evolution is a damn fine thing.

So rather than snark, maybe send a thank you note and a donation to GLAAD or Lambda Legal, or any of the folks who have been on the front lines all these long years, and will continue to be on the front lines, long after the rest of us (especially the straight of us) think we can sit back and don some laurels.

And allow yourself a smile. Because it is a fine thing to be alive at a time such as this.

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10 Comments

  1. Thanks for this.

    • Hey look, it’s you! I wish you could see the smile on my face right now, just seeing your name and picture. How lovely to see you! [And thanks! : )]

      • There’s lots of smirking and sarcasm these days about pols who have “evolved” on marriage equality, but the fact is that almost all of us — at least those of us who’ve been around for a while — have “evolved” on it as well. Sullivan has a video up now where he talks about the befuddlement he’s experiencing at how things have shifted, how what is now a cause that is supported by a majority of the population in some polls, was something that people laughed out loud at the mere suggestion of a couple of decades ago. Just as evolution is necessary in biology, so too it is necessary in society.

        We’d all like to think we were the pioneers, the prophets, the early-adopters, and most of us simply weren’t. That doesn’t make us bad, just. . . normal.

  2. Lise

     /  April 2, 2013

    Amen.
    And I would only add – after you send your donation to one of the fine organizations listed (or one that you prefer), sit back and think of who in your life had the courage to help you get to this point? Do you have a sister who was brave enough to not only marry her female partner, but to tell her co-workers at the Catholic institution where she worked about it? Were you one of the co-workers threw the ladies a wedding shower? Did your cousin and his partner announce at a family gathering that they were bringing a new baby into the family through adoption? Do you live next to a gay couple who’ve been together for > 30 years? Were they the ones who raised your consciousness about marriage equality when you realized that they can’t receive spousal benefits if one of them dies? Thank them, too. These quiet acts of love and defiance in the face of institutionalized homophobia have done much to move us toward this fine day.

    • My big sister’s making me cry, y’all, because what she says is very right. Thank your people.

  3. Human society is all about critical mass. Just as when uranium is lumped together, little by little, slowly reaching the point of cascading into chain reaction, so too does humanity have to reach a critical mass of people reaching the same conclusion before change can really happen socially.

    Sometimes the pace of the reaction is quick, like firecrackers, and sometimes it is glacially slow, but change is inexorable. To continue the physics analogy, humanity is motion, humanity is energy, and energy in motion does work. Every person who resists the status quo where it leads to the denigration of people, any people, is an exploding atom, releasing their energy into the body of humanity, stirring it, heating it, setting forces in motion.

    Even now, with as long as LGBTQ individuals have suffered, enough energy has been unleashed to send our society into more frenetic spasms, and as such, those who agitate against same-sex marriage and equality for LGBTQ individuals are being overwhelmed by a tide of positive energy. When that tide has worn away their resistance, only the faint echoes of their stubborn resistance will remain.

    • only the faint echoes of their stubborn resistance will remain

      From your mouth to God’s – or maybe the nation’s – ears!

  4. Neocortex

     /  April 3, 2013

    I would also like to make a plug for GLAD, the excellent organization for which I volunteer (not GLAAD, which is also excellent but different). GLAD brought marriage equality to Massachusetts, the first state to get it, and it has an amicus brief in Windsor (the current anti-DOMA case). More importantly, IMO, it fights for the rights of trans people to exist in public, of LGBT schoolchildren to not be bullied, of LGBT employees to not be fired for who they are, for HIV+ people to access medical care…and its Infoline provides information and lawyer and resource referrals for people ranging from trans prisoners who are being threatened and sexually assaulted to gay couples being kicked out of public housing. You know, all those causes that remain on the back burner while the (worthy, but kind of a resource sink) one of marriage equality gets the limelight.

    It is a fine thing when the bandwagon jumpers jump on the wagon of social justice.

    It is. But it understandably stings for the pioneers that everyone else took so long to get it.

    The outliers, the freaks, the demons become the pioneers, the leaders, the role models.

    Well, the famous ones anyway. Meanwhile, how many of them (for whichever cause) suffered PTSD, were incarcerated, lost their homes or their jobs, developed addictions, died? And, I realize this is not the most productive comment, but why can’t society learn to stop doing this to the outliers and the freaks? Why can’t more people who are aware of this cycle learn to be the outliers and the freaks?

    You’re right, of course, this is a day for joy. But the joy is tempered for me…tempered by what so many people lost to get everyone else to this point, and by all the other ways in which oppression against LGBT people manifests itself that still don’t have the mainstream cachet that same-sex marriage does.

    • I think that sting is completely understood & understandable – the lives of real, actual humans are lost on the way to a more perfect union, and a whole lot of them. For me one of the most shudder-inducing thoughts is to realize that the sheer number of deaths in the 1980s is a part of why we are where we are today. Half a generation cut down because people wouldn’t say “AIDS.”

  5. Lise

     /  April 3, 2013

    You’re absolutely right, Neocortex. Because those brave enough to live out loud are still being battered, discriminated against, and drinking/drugging themselves to death to cope with the PTSD of homophobia. It’s not going away. Yet it’s not what it was. And I will never forget that President Reagan refused to say the word “AIDS” as Americans died around him and the plague raged on.

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