I didn't have to wait too long to vote yesterday. When I got to the polls yesterday morning about 10, there were about ten people in the place, completing the arrows on their paper ballots. In Pennsylvania and NYC, I voted with machines with levers, so this art project thing was a little off putting. I was worried that I'd mess it. I'm in the middle of mid-terms at school, so as I'm in that mode, it felt just like taking a test.
As I made my way to the lockbox to insert my ballot in the slot and receive my "I Voted" sticker that would get me free coffee at Starbucks, I noticed that the other voters in the place were all older african-americans and the gays. We were all smiling at each other, almost conspiratorially. Although in retrospect, we weren't smiling because we felt we were doing something wrong, we were smiling because we felt we were doing something significant, that we were making history.
For the black voters, it was all about voting for the first african-american who would become President of the United States of America. For me, it was voting so that gay men and lesbians would be able to have their relationships recognized by the State of California. Like them, I would have been surprised and dubious if it had been suggested to me at some point in the past that I would have the opportunity to do this.
I am old enough to remember when it was very much Not Okay to be a homo. I remember when gaydar was a tool of survival, particularly on the job when if it was known that you were a shirt-raiser, you wouldn't be getting any raises. I remember when a four guys carrying lacrosse sticks piled out of a car in the middle of the West Village (!) calling me fuckin' queer. I remember when Bush 41's Secretary of Health and Human Services, Louis Sullivan, said on Nightline that AIDS in fact was not a matter of great national concern because it didn't and wouldn't be affecting americans other than homosexuals and those living in the "inner cities." I remember when checking into a hotel room with another man and asking for a room with one bed felt like a Really Big Deal and if we were tired or we weren't sure that there were any other motels around we would just let it pass and let them give us two full beds. I remember when Tony Randall's character on the short-lived sit-com "Love, Sidney" was rewritten from him being gay to just being this guy who lived alone and took an unusual though non-romantic interest in the young single mother living in the next apartment. I remember the preacher at Jack Schmidt's funeral saying from the pulpit that God saw homosexuality as an abomination while Jack's partner Rick quietly sobbed.
Not that it was all horror and torment. Or even mostly. There was, of course, a wonderfully fun aspect of being on the outside of american society looking in, of secretly laughing up your sleeve at the clueless straights. I once actually overheard some guy say, "You mean RuPaul is a woman???" And when you gave a little wink to the guy at the airport check-in counter having detected a certain way he had in pronouncing those sibilant S's, it might get you an upgrade on your seat.
And, of course, I am nothing if not ambivalent about this whole idea of gay marriage. When friends said that they were at a wedding a few weekends ago, it took me a while to realize that it was two men who were tying the knot. Too, I still think it devalues relationships that gay men do amazingly well--friendships--in favor of those that we're not so good at. But that said, I am warming to the idea.
But here I was, voting No on Proposition 8.
Surely we'd win the day. Surely a simple majority of the California electorate would see through the hateful, lying, fear-mongering ads run by proponents of Prop 8. Surely this wonderful "live and let live" state that I moved across the country to call home would be better than that.
The results, 52-48 % in favor, are such a kick in the stomach.
So yeah. It's really cool that Black is the New President and all, but I'm not quite celebratory. In fact, I'm feeling a little vindictive. At Starbucks this morning, my blood boiled when I noticed that the nice older straight couple in line ahead of me were wearing wedding rings. And it's particularly stinging that one of the factors leading to the ratification of Prop 8 was high turn-out by african american voters who overwhelmingly voted for it. In the aggregate, african-americans are standing in the way of the expansion of civil rights and human dignity. Now that's a nice thought.
So yay. Yay, Obama. Hooray. It's a great day for America. When do I get to be an american?