I spent most of the morning after the 2008 national election drowning in snotty, self-pitying tears. It was the first election I’d been able to vote in, and I’d spent the majority of it vacillating wildly between mounting hysteria and choking, paralyzing panic.
As Barack Obama’s numbers got higher and higher, my college town erupted in riotous, joyful screams. Inside our kitchen, though, my friends and I obsessively hit “refresh” on MSNBC’s website, watching California’s poll results and slamming back plastic-bottle whiskey.
Around one in the morning, as California took away the right to marriage equality we’d been given just five months before, my best friend turned to me and shook her head.
“Sorry, baby,” she said. “At least we -- I mean, at least it’s Obama, right?”
My mom took a different approach. “It’ll be okay eventually,” she tried to soothe me as I cried to her on the phone the next morning. “In a couple of years, Grandma will be dead, and so will lots of other people who voted for Prop 8.”
“Bu-u-u-t they think I’m a second—hic—second-class citize-e-en!” I gurgled, hoping that she’d conveniently forget that I hadn’t actually come out to her yet.
She just sighed at me down the line. “Don’t call your father in the next few days, okay?”
She was right, naturally. I didn’t call my dad to hear him spout homophobic bullshit, I went to class, Grandma is still around, and the world went on.
But I distinctly remember the uncomfortable realization that I was prouder to be an American than a Californian.
I was reminded of all of this today when President Obama announced that he would be “clarifying” his stance on same-sex marriage on the heels of North Carolina’s predictable -- but still pretty depressing -- decision to reaffirm their commitment to Ye Olde Heterosexual Lifestyle.
For the last three-and-a-half years, I’ve been watching Obama drag his feet on LGBT rights as half the country continued to grumble about the Scary Gay Agenda. So when he actually said the words,“ I affirm that same-sex couples should be able to get married,” it took me a full minute to get it before I started emitting high-pitched dolphin squeals.
As far as I could tell, Obama had spent 16 years of “evolution” trying to be like my mother: ineffectually trying to keep the peace while mustachioed Dad-publicans ranted about sodomy and rainbow-flagged harridans (me) sobbed into their vodka cranberries. At the end of the day, nobody was going home with the majority vote and/or pie. Then, suddenly, it was like he got as tired of the faffing around as the rest of us. Cue homo Christmas!
Of course, it only took about an hour for people to get testy. Gawker argued that the whole thing was bullshit anyway, MSNBC called Obama late to the party and the Daily Beast slyly pointed out that the announcement was immediately coupled with a palm expectantly outstretched to donors. Even my mom, stunning political commentator that she is, snarked, “hes just looking 4 votes” in response to my triumphant midday text.
A whole lot of people were thrilled, sure, but a whole lot more thought it just wasn’t enough. Obama hadn’t officially politically endorsed same-sex marriage. He was still, ultimately, planning on giving it up to individual states to decide whether Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka are totally cuuuute or totally siiiinful. And honestly? Love Obama as I do, I’m starting to kind of get tired of the equivocating, too.
Look, I get it. I do. Gay marriage is a risky business politically, and it’s not even something a lot of LGBT folks care that much about. Just like the right-wingers say, marriage is, at its origin, a religious issue. Heaps of people of every sexual orientation are just not comfortable with the entire affair.
This is the one issue that I always try to trick myself into thinking I don’t care that much about, particularly when it’s happening in states across the country.
“I mean, who cares about North Carolina?” I tried to console myself this morning. “They have humidity there, for godssake. Might as well just let the whole thing slide off into the ocean.”
Sure enough, though, as the day wore on, I slid further and further into a pit of gaymo despair. The pro-gay marriage sect raised almost twice as much as the haters, for fuck’s sake. If money doesn’t talk, I thought gloomily to myself, what will?
The truth is, it’s not just about the proverbial altar. Those two hypothetical plastic dudes in tuxes have become a synecdoche for the entire LGBT movement. Because when all is said and done, you’re not going to deny a group of people marriage rights and then be like, “Oh, my bad! You can totally teach our children. And lead our Boy Scouts. And visit your dying partner in hospital. And not get deported. Or beaten to death. Or imprisoned for defending yourself. It was all just a beautiful, hilarious misunderstanding!”
No. You’re going to point to the fact that these terrible, no-good, taxpaying, butt-fucking adults are Living in Sin, and you’re going to use that against them any way you can. Because that’s what happens when you let the majority vote on the rights of the minority.
Let’s put this into perspective. The most popular sitcom of all time has been “Two and a Half Men.” Obama is essentially giving the same people fueling its sucess the go-ahead to determine the status of families all over the country. That, right there, is nightmare fuel.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m absolutely ecstatic. This is the first time in history that a President of the United States has out-and-out acknowledged the 100% fuckwittery of marriage equality. This is HUGE.
I’d be even happier, though, if next time, Obama didn’t couch his statements in nice, safe language like “monogamous” and “parents.”
I’m pretty sure that if I end up marrying a dude, I’m not going to have to staple a PTA registration form to my vagina to get court approval. Why should marrying a woman be any different? And I’m sure glad that Sasha and Malia’s friendships with kids of gay parents did a lot to change his mind, but we can’t arrange Skype dates between happy-family gay couples and every single homophobe in the nation. Nobody would get any sleep.
It’s time to be realistic. We’re not going to take any cohesive steps in the direction of equality by making wishy-washy political runarounds or waiting for everyone’s Grandma to die. As a non-hetero, non-monogamous, non-family friendly weirdo, I’m still as worthy of equal rights as Ellen Degeneres or, heaven forbid, my dad. It’d be great if my chief elected official could recognize THAT.
I’ve got hope, though. For the time being.