Words of Hope From An Old Queer

I'm sitting here, balancing.

I'm balancing my joyful weepy-ness at the never-before-in-my-lifetime sight of a Presidential victory stage peopled with actual racial diversity . . . .

. . . . with my sorrowful weepy-ness at the all-too-familiar-oh-no-not-this-shit-again sight of the current California election results on Proposition 8.

I'm here to offer some words of Hope.

In 1973, when I was 17, and already knew that I was a lesbian, homosexuality was removed from the DSM-III as a mental illness.

Go ahead -- settle in -- this may be a long post.

In 1979, when I was 23, I marched in my first Gay Pride parade in Portland, Oregon. That same year, the "Moral Majority" was founded, and was later credited with handing Ronald Reagan the presidency.

In 1981, when I was 25, I came out to my Kansan parents. My mom said: "Well, I've changed a lot since I first began to suspect. A man in my church went to the pastor, and the pastor told him that he had to come out to the whole congregation, so that they could see that homosexual people [sic] were people they knew, and loved, and respected. So, I've changed about this. I just want you to be happy, and well, and loved."

In 1984, when I was 29, people who I actually knew began dying of AIDS. My partner and I volunteered at CAP and sat with many dying friends as the "gay plague" ravaged our community, and Reagan's White House looked on with apathy and disdain.

In 1988, when I was 32, I joined with members of Act-Up and other LGBTQ groups to fight "Measure 8", which sought to overturn a gubernatorial executive order (the first time an EO had been challenged by public initiative in Oregon), and which prohibited any protections for LGBTQ folk in state government. Not to go all Godwin here, but as a history-buff/institutional-memory-geek, I was alarmed, to say the least -- as I knew that Hitler's initiatory step to the oppression of Jews was prohibiting them from public employment.

Measure 8 passed in 1988. I mourned. (What the fuck is it with the whole number "8" for homophobic propositions and measures, anyway?)

In 1992, when I was 36, the same fucknecks who brought us Measure 8 brought us Measure 9, which would require that:
"All levels of government, including public education systems, must assist in setting a standard for Oregon's youth which recognizes that these behaviors are abnormal, wrong, unnatural and perverse and they are to be discouraged and avoided."

(No, you're not reading that wrong -- that was the actual language.)
Measure 9 was defeated.
Bill Clinton was elected.
I rejoiced. I believed that a new day had begun.

Nine days (yes, you heard it -- NINE FUCKING DAYS) after the man I had campaigned for, raised money for, stumped streets for, sat phone-banks for, etc., was sworn into office ( just in case I wasn't clear enough -- that was: NINE FUCKING DAYS after his inauguration) -- Bill Clinton announces"Don't Ask, Don't Tell".

I was supposed to feel grateful, I suppose. Now, queers could have the privilege of dying for their country -- as long as they never mentioned they were queer. And no one asked them if they were queer. Woo-hoo!

Four years later, he signed DOMA. Which started a whole 'nother shit-storm of state constitutional amendments and ballot measures and propositions and crap and crap and crap.

Although Bill Clinton has looked like a "better" president to me as I've passed through the past eight years, it's important for me to look back and remember.

I had such optimism in 1992. The day Clinton was elected (after the long, black night of Reaganomics and Bush Sr.), I was totally and utterly convinced that a new day was rising. I was optimistic, fresh-faced, and twinkly-eyed.

By 2000, when I was 44, I was just plain tired.

I didn't believe any of them. I didn't believe the doomsday-predictors who said that GWBush could be the worst thing that had ever happened to our nation and the world (Boy! Was I wrong there!), nor did I believe the happy shiny people holding hands who said that Al Gore could quite possibly save us from ourselves (Again, totally wrong -- that would be me -- totally wrong, for disbelieving in both cases).

I voted Gore in 2000, but without much heart -- I had the sense that he was simply too close to the heart of Bill Clinton -- a candidate for whom I had shed blood, sweat, and tears-- a candidate who had betrayed me deeply.

By 2001, when I was 45, other countries were actually legally marrying same-sex couples.

By 2004, when I was 48, I had witnessed too much.

Yes, it was tiring, voting for people who ultimately probably didn't give a shit about me, but it was, perhaps, marginally better than voting for people who absolutely hated my fucking guts and would like to see me wiped off the face of the Earth. (And Yes, there is a difference between neglect and abuse -- as the past recipient of both, I'll tell you that, at least with neglect, you sometimes get a quiet moment to yourself.)

But also, during 2004, Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage.

It was, of course, challenged -- and challenged -- and challenged. (Seriously, if you think this shit is easy, go read the entire wiki.)

The challenges were met. Same-sex marriage remains legal in MA -- no one has died of Traditional-Marriage-Challenge-Syndrome, and the world has not come to an end.

What a surprise.

By 2008, when I was 52, CA courts had decided that denying marriage to queers was unconstitutional in that state.

And so it was that Prop 8 was born.
And funded by out-of-state religious moguls.
And subjected to much youtubery.

And from where I sit, that was entirely predictable.

When you push on the gates of power, there will be pushback.
At first, for sure. Later, perhaps less so. Much later, maybe not at all.

So, at this point, you're probably saying: "But Portly! Where's the Hope!?! You promised me Hope, you chubby muff-diver!!"

Well, the Hope is here:

When I was 17, the thought of being accepted as a queer in my family, or in society at large -- the idea of being "out" at a job -- any job (except maybe a gay-bar) -- simply did not exist.

At the time, I was pissed about this at some level -- but it was a vague, subconscious kind of anger -- and I would never have expected it to be addressed in the media or a topic of conversation outside of the secretive community that I inhabited as a queer.

Now, at 52, I'm pissed again -- but this time, my anger is out in the open.

That may be bitter cause for Hope -- but it is, for me, Hope, nonetheless.

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