Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin

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Proposition 8 Aftermath

Many people have been asking why the marches and demonstrations opposing Proposition 8 after it passed have been larger than any demonstrations opposing it before it passed. Some people have answered that before it passed, the queer community assumed it would be defeated and were therefore complacent. But although there was probably some complacency involved, there was also another factor that has been less commented upon: Some of us, me included, wanted to demonstrate in opposition to it before it passed, and were told by the No on 8 organizational leadership that our neighborhoods were so conservative that drawing any attention to Proposition 8 would just cause more Yes on 8 voters to go to the polls and vote. The best thing to do in our neighborhoods, we were told, was to go right back into our closets and hide there until Election Day.

And it's quite plausible that the No on 8 leadership was right to tell us this. It's quite plausible that the most common short-term effect when homophobic straight people start seeing open, visible queer people in their neighborhoods is that the homophobic straight people are horrified and become more eager than ever to try to legislate us back into the closet where they won't have to see, hear, think about, or recognize the existence of us ever again.

However, it is also very clear from the cultural shift over the past few decades that the long-term effect when homophobic straight people start seeing open, visible queer people in their neighborhoods is that the homophobic straight people eventually become gradually more used to us and start gradually realizing that our being allowed to exist and to walk around in public without pretending to be straight hasn't actually harmed them in any way, so our being allowed to marry each other isn't likely to harm them either.

What this means is that the best possible time to demonstrate in favor of same-sex marriage is right now - precisely because there is not an upcoming election about it right now. If we do end up putting same-sex marriage back on the ballot in 2010, either in California or in any other state, the 2010 election season will be too late for our demonstrations to do much good. At that point in time, increasing the volume of our demonstrations will risk hurting our own cause, especially if we demonstrate in neighborhoods where the majority of the people we need to convert actually live. At that point in time, our demonstrations will have to be aimed primarily at getting out the vote among people who are already inclined to support us, rather than at converting people who are not inclined to support us. The time for converting people who are not inclined to support us is right now.

Right now, the Yes on 8 voters are looking around at the post-election demonstrations and saying, "The election is over! Why aren't you over it?" Or as jeremytblack put it recently, "Losing your civil rights is so last Tuesday. Why are you not over this?" We need to answer their question. It ought to be obvious, of course, but apparently it isn't. We need to keep emphasizing, over and over, that these are our own personal lives, our own marriages - not the mere abstract definitions and symbolism that the Yes on 8 side was so up in arms over. On November 4th, 52% of California voters voted to eliminate my right to marry my fiancee. The reason I remain very extremely angry about this today, November 14th, is that my right to marry my fiancee remains eliminated. I will remain very extremely angry about this for as long as my right to marry my fiancee remains eliminated. I will stop being angry about this as soon as my right to marry my fiancee is restored and I am able to marry her.

There are cars still driving around with Yes on 8 bumper stickers on them. Every time I see one, I think: Pretty much everyone in the whole world is smart enough to realize that if they have been the "other man" or "other woman" who broke up someone else's marriage, then they really should do everything they can to avoid showing their face around the jilted spouse whose marriage they destroyed. So how can these people who have annulled 18,000 other couples' marriages barely a week ago (and prevented many thousands more) possibly be stupid enough to go around announcing in public that they're the guilty parties who did this do us? I can only conclude that they must be truly incredibly oblivious to the very notion that we even have any feelings at all. I strongly suspect that if they leave those stickers on their cars much longer, someone will vandalize their cars in some way. But breaking the law for the sake of hurting these people is just putting oneself at risk completely unnecessarily. What I did, when I saw a parked car with a Yes on 8 sticker, was to leave a Post-it note on the windshield: "If people voted to outlaw your marriage and then you saw a car with a sticker supporting that law, how would you feel? What would you do?" Because that's what I really want them to think about.

I believe that the only way to win future elections - and there will be future elections about same-sex marriage rights, in some other states even if it doesn't come to that again in California - is for us to start campaigning now. Stay in election campaigning mode from this election right through the next one. Make signs to put up in your neighborhood. Let oblivious straight people wonder why in the world you're putting up campaign signs when there's no election coming. Let them go right on wondering that until they eventually start to realize that this is just how much it matters to us, that we will not go away until our marriage rights are restored to us. Leave notes on car windshields. Talk about it anywhere and everywhere. Keep demonstrating, and don't ever stop until we have equal rights.

There's more than one way of demonstrating, by the way. Susan has been wanting to start walking her dogs more regularly, and she asked me to go with her. I said I would be motivated to go with her if we held hands the whole time, while walking past the dozens and dozens of houses in her immediate neighborhood that had Yes on 8 signs up before the election. She said okay. Now I'm motivated. Now I'm so motivated I might want to go walking every single day and keep walking for miles just to make sure to walk past as many of those houses as we possibly can.
Tags: susan
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