Monday, November 17, 2008

On community service.

One of the things I like about Barack Obama is that he plans to encourage Americans to engage in service to the country. And to him, service to the country is more than enlisting in the military: he wants us all to take an active interest in our fellow Americans. He wants us to volunteer our time and money to help make America a better place. I could drink this kool-aid all day long if it's going to inspire me to volunteer.

My first order of business in this quest to be an Awesome American was to quit ignoring phone calls from the Red Cross. They've been calling me about four times every Sunday, trying to get me to donate. I sort of stopped ignoring them: I hate talking on the phone, so instead, I made an appointment online to donate blood today. How rad am I?

On my lunch break, I followed the directions to the elementary school where I was to donate. Once there, they asked me one million questions, but the one that I will remember was this: "You have A- blood, so you qualify for this special kind of blood donation. It will take about 10 minutes longer, but the needle is smaller so it should hurt less. Also, we will get more usable blood out of you and give you back the stuff we don't need." I responded, "Will it hurt more?" He said, "No, it should hurt less."

He lied.

It took me over 45 minutes to donate whatever it is they needed, and it HURT almost the entire time. When the machine was drawing the blood out of me, I could feel the needle tug at my arm. RAD. The woman who had inserted the needle finally said, "Maybe you're not resting your arm right." I spit at her. (Not really.) When she FINALLY took the needle out, she said, "Now it might be sore for a little while because it's been in there so long." Me: "YOU THINK??"

So maybe community service isn't all it's cracked up to be. I haven't given up on the blood donation (yet), but I know the next time I do it, they're only getting the normal supply from me - none of this machine-operated-platelet-return-we-only-take-your-red-blood-cells crap. And luckily, I got them off my backs for another four months.

Maybe I'll get a tattoo between now and then.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Today's quote.

"All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression."

- Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

You have to be better than.

On Saturday, gina and I went to Silverlake to march in the protest/rally against proposition 8. I wanted it to be inspiring. I wanted to feel like we were really making a difference. I wanted to feel like it would change something.

When we got there, I was emotional at the sight of so many people coming together for one cause. Then I looked more closely and realized they weren't all coming together for one cause. There is so much justified anger directed at so many different places, it's hard to tell what we're trying to do. I saw a lot of signs aimed at the Mormon church: "Tax the Mormons!" or "Keep Mor(m)ons out of my politics!" Worse yet, I saw signs attacking other gays: "I heart the people who volunteered BEFORE we lost!" or "We needed you a week ago! Where were you?" None of the signs fully illustrated my frustration with the gay community more than this one: "I deserve the right to cum in peace."

Listen up, homos: nothing is going to change until we figure out what it is we want to change, and until we get it through the collective skull of the rest of America that we are not all that different from them. Yes, the Mormons should lose their tax exempt status, but is that going to give us the right to marry? And to those of you who "heart" the people who helped out before we lost, I have news for you: NONE of us did enough. If we had done enough, Prop 8 would have failed. And is now really the time to cause divisions amongst gay people? How will that help?

And to the young lesbian I saw holding the sign about cumming in peace: Do you honestly think you are helping our cause? When people think about "marriage," as in, straight marriage, do they think of sex? NO. They think of love, companionship, and family. No one is disturbing your right to an orgasm. You can f*ck whoever you want, whenever you want, and however you want, thankfully. THAT'S NOT WHAT WE ARE FIGHTING FOR. By holding up a sign like that, you are perpetuating the gay stereotype. It's no wonder people think we are deviant. All they see is b-roll from gay pride parades, with dykes on bikes and guys in assless chaps. (This is not to say that I am not a fan of gay pride parades - I go almost every year. I go because they are crazy fun, and to me, it's like the gay mardi gras. Yeah, we're crazy - this is the time of year we get to let loose!)

I was complaining about this to a friend of mine, and he shared a sentiment that he had picked up, that in order for the minority to be treated as equal, they have to be better than the rest. You will never convince the country that it's normal for men to parade around as drag queens or in assless chaps. And as long as that is the footage news organizations choose to show, America will never get it. What they need to see is how the majority of gay people live. They need to see that what we're after is not crazy gay sex, but a life not unlike theirs, a life in which our children and our partners are offered the same protections as theirs, and our relationship holds the same weight as theirs. And yes, we do get together and celebrate our gayness by waving rainbow flags and wearing fun stuff and getting drunk, but the other 364 days a year, we are just like you. We pay the same taxes, we go to the same gas stations, we vote in the same voting booths, we go to the same churches, we read the same books, we go to the same libraries, we eat at the same restaurants, we watch the same movies, we all pay rent or a mortgage, we shop for the same groceries, and we love the same way.

This is what we have to get across to America. I can't say for sure how we can do this, or how we can make this work, but I just gave you a bunch of examples of how NOT to do this. (Also, maybe we should organize a rally somewhere instead of the place that's second only to WeHo in gay friendliness??)

My frustration with this rally is not to say I think the rallies are pointless. I think it's important to be a part of the movement. I think it's important to show up. But like in any war, it's critical to know exactly what it is you are fighting for. Otherwise, you will most certainly be defeated, and you won't even know it.

The best sign I saw that night was one that read, "If only clever signs cured bigotry..." Whatever it is that we need to do, I know that we need to do it with one voice, together. Anything less will not work.


Friday, November 07, 2008

More hopeful than frustrated, or You are not going to kill this Barack buzz I've got going on.

In the late summer of 2004, when our hopes were still high a democrat might take the White House in November, my friend Maggie and I were exchanging emails about politics. Maggie is one smart cat, and in those days I turned to her to explain different things to me. I've always thought she somehow has an "in" with the world at large, that she has her finger on the pulse of history as it happens, and sometimes, she just might be able to tell the future. (She is one of my most favorite friends.)

One of her emails in this exchange said something like: "Did you hear this guy Barack Obama speak at the Democratic National Convention? If not, google him and try to find that speech. That guy's going to be president someday."

I don't need to tell you that I googled him, but what I do want to tell you is at that time, I was only able to find the transcript of his speech. I read it, not having ever seen his face, not having ever heard his voice, and emotion welled up in me. Who the hell is this guy, and how dare he give me so much hope?? I couldn't wait for the day for him to announce he'd be running for president.

When Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy for 2008, I was elated, but one of the first things I remember telling people is, "I hope Barack Obama doesn't run this year, because she will never beat him." It's not that I didn't want Barack Obama to be the president - it's that I sort of wanted Hillary more. However, when I went into the booth on Super Tuesday of this year to pick my democratic candidate, I felt as though I was choosing between an ice cream sundae and a red velvet cupcake. Both choices were so equally appealing to me, I didn't know how I could possibly be asked to choose. After a lot of thought, and a very compelling article in the New Yorker, I chose Hillary.

Admittedly, I also weighed heavily - who would America vote for? A white woman or a black man? I figured it would be the former.

(It should also be noted that around primary season, when John McCain emerged as the Republican frontrunner, and it was still a tossup between Hillary and Barack, I was feeling pretty good about the election overall - I liked John McCain, and I loved the Democratic candidates. Images of an election whose outcome would be great either way danced in my head. Ah, those were the days...)

Needless to say, when Hillary conceded, I jumped on the Obama train without hesitating, and screamed from the proverbial rooftops about how great this young, "inexperienced genius" was and would be for our country.

Right before it was clear Obama would be the candidate, the California Supreme Court, in a majority opinion written by one of its conservative Republican judges, ruled that it was unconstitutional to deny same sex Californians marriage licenses. Suddenly, we had a black man running for president and gay marriage was legal in California! Could life get any better? Were the founders right? Were we really all created equal? Even the blacks and the gays?! I love it here!!

This week has come with a whirlwind of emotions for me. I can't quite describe the feeling inside of me at 8:00 PST, when it was announced that not only did Barack Obama become the 44th President of the United States, but he did so overwhelmingly, with a ridiculously huge margin of the electoral vote. (He could have even done it without Ohio, but Ohio pulled through for us!) I was humbled, inspired, grateful, hopeful. I watched his speech with goosebumps all over me and tears in my eyes. I had this quieting sense that the easy part was over, and now this man had the most important job in the whole world, not only of leading us, but of reclaiming America's place in the world. I clung to his words, and admired him for being cautiously optimistic, not reveling in victory but reminding us of the task at hand. I have always been proud of Americans, but I have not been proud of America for a long time. It felt good to be proud of my country once more. I was even proud of John McCain once again, whose concession speech was arguably the most important speech of his career. That night, it was obviously not lost on me how monumental it was to see a black family take the stage as our First Family, and I was flooded with pride at our continuing ability to come together and celebrate our diversity, and to show our children that anything is possible, and that while we still have a long way to go, we are well on our way to being the country we should be.

Of course, in the days since then, Californians (and the rest of the country, it seems) learned that Proposition 8 passed, by a very narrow margin. I marveled at how we could defeat a proposition that called for limits on abortions for underage girls (I am glad this was defeated, I voted no on it), and we could pass a proposition giving chickens and pigs more room to stretch their legs (again, I voted for this as well), and we could SOUNDLY deliver California for Barack Obama, but we could not defeat a proposition that aimed to write discrimination into our state constitution, something that, to my knowledge, has never been done in the history of California. How did this happen? The Mormon church is partly to blame. The Mormon church, who enjoys tax exempt status, donated 70 percent of the funds to pass this proposition. (The gay community needs to share some of the blame, but I'll save that for another post.)

I am devastated by this. For the first time ever, I am ashamed of California. I am disgusted. I am embarrassed of this state I have come to call home. If you are reading this and you voted "yes" on prop 8, shame on you. You took away my rights as an equal citizen. You have essentially told me I'm not as good as you, that I should be required to follow the same rules as you, pay the same taxes as you, but not have the same benefits as you, not reap the same rewards as you. You have told me with a resounding voice that I am less than you. Well you know what? Fuck you. FUCK YOU. I deserve everything you have, and MORE, because I believe in equality for all. I believe we shouldn't deny law abiding citizens their rights. I believe we were ALL created equal, just like the United States Constitution says, just like the Declaration of Independence says. I am an American. How DARE you try to take away MY rights? This is not over. I am damn SICK of crying over this. I'm sick of feeling like a second-class citizen. I'm done with that. My fury is rising, and you better watch out. You thought we would go away quietly? Nope. Not anymore.

I realize this post is getting really long, but I do have a point to make.

My friend Wendy called me after the election to ask how I was feeling. She asked me about prop 8 - "are you depressed?" The answer is no. I'm not depressed. Barack Obama is good for America. Barack Obama will change not only my life, but my mom's life and my dad's life, and in the near future. While I also think marriage equality is good for America, I believe so in a much more indirect way. And I know we will get there. It took just 40 years from the Civil Rights movement to elect a black president. It was 40 long years, but that's only half a lifetime. We will get there. Marriage equality will be a federal issue some day. In the meantime, I am overwhelmingly excited about our next president, and about the choice America has made. Straight people have already taken so much away from me this week - they're not going to take Barack's victory away from me too.

Yes we can, yes we did, and YES WE WILL.