Today’s a good day to be gay. However, it’s not a great day to be gay, at least when you live in Michigan, where the new joke in the LGBT scene is that now you can get gay married on Saturday, and then gay fired on Monday! (Cue the drums and the canned applause.)
I made squee sounds and jumped up and down when I got the NPR story on the SCOTUS ruling sent to me last Friday. I might have even clapped. I do that sometimes. I feel it’s okay for adults to occasionally, spontaneously clap for themselves, but I digress. I was really truly excited and contacted a friend who works at the local university in the LGBT Resource Center to ask if there was anything going on in town. She knows things. It’s kind of awesome, like a gay phone tree. She told me there was stuff happening at the Capitol and that I should get my pagan priestess butt over there and marry some gay people! (Pun intended.)
One of my partners happened to be home from work so I was able to sneak away from my child watching duties to go be a priestess! I ripped off my cutoff jeans and tie-dyed tee I had stolen from another partner, threw on my grown-up looking black wrap dress, grabbed my stole and went. I was really excited to marry some gay people.
I got to the Capitol and wandered toward a crowd of people. They looked weirdly subdued for a bunch of newlyweds. They were loitering on the Capitol lawn eating their lunches from Styrofoam containers like business casual pigeons. They also seemed kind of young. I kept looking for some rainbow flags, or possibly some confetti. There was none. Awkwardly I stood there, wondering if I should ask these people where the marriages were happening when I noticed they all had lanyards with name tags on. These weren’t gay people. At least most of them probably weren’t, and none of them were getting married right that moment. I had found a flock of interns taking a moment in the sun before getting back to whatever grunt work they were being assigned in the bowels of our state government. Hmmm.
While I was trying to figure out what had happened, a fellow druid and friend who works nearby texted me that she was across the lawn and ready to witness some gay marriage! I waved and explained about the interns. She and the friends she had brought were clearly downcast, but we had the idea to go to the courthouse and see if the County Clerk’s office was the site where the joyous moments of union were occurring. It was only a couple of blocks away so we walked together through downtown. It was weirdly normal, with people walking around looking busy and bored. We got to the County Clerk’s office but my companions elected to go get some grub with the rest of their lunch hour while I wandered inside. I bid them farewell, looking doubtfully at the seventies style wood paneling before wandering off to seek out the County Clerk’s office.
No one was there but one bored woman behind the counter. Our eyes met for a moment and I shrugged and gave her a sheepish smile before turning around and walking back outside. I wondered what she thought of me in that moment, and if I was the most interesting thing that had happened that day. I hope not.
Determination took hold of me. I had a rare opportunity to be part of history! I looked at my phone and saw I had a couple of texts about Barb Byrum, our County Clerk at the clerk’s office in the county seat. Pictures of happy married couples standing in front of the historic Mason Courthouse showed me where I should go. The game was afoot! I hurried back to my car and drove down to Mason, about twenty minutes away. I have a friend who works for the county down there so I knew where to go, mostly. I only got lost once. That’s really good for me. I ended up circling the County Jail and the Courthouse, but the forbidding dark brick structure sat squat and forlorn. No rainbows were to be found there.
I drove to the Historic Courthouse, which is different from the regular Courthouse where Siri had sent me. Bad Siri! But as I circled looking for a parking place, my heart beginning to pound with excitement, I realized something.
There wasn’t anybody here either.
At least not anybody looking like they were celebrating a great moment in civil rights history. This was a defining moment finally allowing those of us who are attracted to individuals of our own gender to legally bind ourselves in contractual agreement with a person whose genitals match our own. What the Hel?
There were a couple of bored women in frumpy flowered dresses eating lunch, a mom pushing a stroller, and a man in a business suit. I texted my friend who worked across the street to see if she wanted to get lunch since that seemed the only thing to do, but she wasn’t in town. No lunch. No gay people. It was one of those moments when you either have to cry or laugh. I laughed. I laughed and texted my partners that I couldn’t find any gay people to marry! My husband had been updating people on Facebook. I had a friend on the scene back downtown who couldn’t find any gay people either. All of us were desperate to be part of such an exciting moment, many of us part of the LGBT community ourselves, and yet…No gay people.
I drove home. I took off my official garb and let it be known on Facebook that I would be available to serve as an officiant at any marriages that occurred that weekend. It was a strange letdown, but the strangest thing was that I didn’t understand. I should have. I should have known how burnt out many LGBT people here in Michigan are. I should have known that hate is still legal in our state and that those people who had wanted to run out and get married at the courthouse had already done so the first time it was legalized in Michigan. That time I didn’t happen to have a partner handy to watch children so I had to watch from the sidelines while all the marriages occurred. I should have known how much struggle and heartbreak had already worn down those people who worked to preserve the marriages that were then made illegal again the very next day when a higher court upheld the ban on same-sex marriage. This was a law enforcing hate that had passed by popular vote on our state ballot. We live in a state where the majority of voters think that being gay is wrong, or ugly, or even evil. Typing that makes me sad. I’m bisexual and polyamorous, you may have noticed the mention of “partners” pluralized earlier in this post. So though I do have a legally wedded husband, this stuff lives close to my heart. I’m wrong and ugly and evil too.
I talked about my adventure with a neighbor who has worked for years within the LGBT community in my town. He looked at me like I was crazy, because I was. I had forgotten in my rainbow and confetti haze that there was still so much hate. I had forgotten that being transgendered is like putting a target on your back. I had forgotten that if you and your lesbian partner want to rent that lovely apartment above the shops by the river, you can get declined simply because “We don’t rent to your kind.” I had forgotten that hate is imbued and woven into the fabric of our lives. This echoes into the burning of Black churches in the south, and the hate killings of innocent men and women in Charleston. When we allow hate to be legal we allow this to happen. It doesn’t matter which subgroup of people is demonized or dehumanized the process of allowing oneself to hate blindly is horribly dangerous.
I’m not much of a protestor. I did walk in a march against the Iraq War. My protest is usually of the quieter sort. A life lived according to different values, hard work put toward finding a more sustainable, loving way to live. I’ve been running up against the hard limits of how many hours there are in the day. But I feel in my bones that we must stand together as people to speak all of our truths. When a gay or racist joke is made in front of me I call people on it. I try not to be mean, because that just shuts dialogue down. I talk more openly about being bisexual too. The women I have loved deserve to be part of my history and my now.
It’s easy to let hate win. To hide and cower, or just to let it all slide from your mind. It’s hard to know what do to, how to be an ally, or to be open about things that cause a quick flicker of discomfort in a new acquaintances’ face. Let’s see this ruling for what it is: a step in the right direction. One step in a very long journey started so long ago. Walk with me, dear reader, away from hate and into something else, something new and better.