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Eleven years ago...

I wrote an essay.

I am going to reprint it today, as a record of how far we've come, and how far we have to go.


Once upon a time, a long, long, LONG time ago, there was this little band of people. Maybe fifty, seventy-five, heck, in good years, over a hundred of them. They all knew each other by sight and they were all related if you went back far enough, though of course strangers were absorbed into the tribe occasionally. They lived...oh, let's say on the savannah. It wasn't an easy life. There were floods and droughts and sickness and lions and tigers and bears, and sometimes there wasn't enough food and sometimes the water hole dried up. But if they worked hard enough, and were wary and clever enough, they could do pretty well.

The most dangerous thing in their world wasn't the drought or the lions or the Ebola virus, though. The most dangerous thing was the tribe over the hill. This other tribe, you see, was just as hard-working and wary and clever as they were, and maybe a little hungrier, because they didn't have access to the water hole where all the best hunting was. They tried asking the first tribe to let them drink, but the first tribe, being no dummies, said no. There was only so much water, after all, especially in dry years, and even worse, there were only so many antelope. If we let you come in and drink and hunt, they said, the water will be muddy and the herds will be frightened and move elsewhere, and our children will starve. So go away, or we'll kill you.

So the second tribe over the hill stayed over the hill, and some of them decided to leave and try to find another water hole somewhere else, but most of them thought that this was just as dangerous as staying, since no one was sure how long it would take to find a new water hole, or even if there was another water hole, and what if the water wasn't as clear and cold and sustaining in the summer months? They could sneak over the hill at night sometimes, and get water, and sometimes they would risk staying till dawn so that they could get in some hunting before the first tribe discovered them. But this wasn't a very good arrangement, because if they did get caught, the tribe that was camped around the water hole would throw rocks at them and drive them away and every now and then even kill the interloper.

So the tribe over the hill, being no dummies, worked out a plan. If one or two of them could sneak over the hill in the night, why not all of them? And if they could bring spears to hunt antelope, why couldn't those spears hunt other things as well? So in the middle of night the hunters took up spears and the women took up rocks (and maybe a few of them took up spears as well, because that happens sometimes) and all of them snuck over the hill and fell upon the tribe which camped around the water hole.

Now, it would be nice to report that the tribe from over the hill, having soundly trounced their enemies, then worked out a firm but fair compromise involving a time-share of the water hole, but what actually happened was that they killed the men and the old people, enslaved the women, and adopted the children. And they took over the water hole and were very happy...at least until another tribe showed up from over the hill, and the vengeful women of the first tribe said, "Psst. You wanna know how to take over the water hole?"

And it's kept going on like that for quite a long time now.

There's an old joke: There are two kinds of people in the world--those that divide the world into two kinds of people, and those who don't. In a world where resources are limited, we're hard-wired to grab as many of those resources as we can and pass them on to our own personal descendants, ensuring that our blood survives in the next generation. So we divide up the world: my family, my tribe, my city, my state, my nation, my race. We exercise this compulsion of ours in more abstract arenas. We divide up over sports, we divide over politics, we divide over religion.

And having divided, we conquer.

There are, after all, only so many antelope and so much water. The history of civilization stretches back some ten to twelve thousand years. The history of mankind stretches back...well, a heck of a lot longer than that. Beneath our veneer of civilization and culture lies a long, dark, bloody stretch of millennia. And we here in the twenty-first century are still driven by that ancient fear of the Other, the stranger who looks different and smells different and speaks a different language and practices strange and disgusting rituals and worships an alien and dangerous god. The stranger who will, we fear, take over our water hole, eat up all our antelope, kill our men and impregnate our women and raise our children to follow customs we wot not of.

Sometimes it's not an unreasonable fear. I would venture to say that the fear of the black Sudanese farmers currently being dispossessed, killed, and raped by Arab nomad militia supported by their own government is an entirely logical and appropriate reaction. Sometimes, however, our fears end up poisoning us.

You see, we're no longer fighting over water holes and antelope. (Well, sometimes we are. But not as often.) We're fighting over justice and compassion and equality, over life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I'm not going to say 'tolerance,' because it's a thin, unsatisfactory sort of word. I tolerate the black widow spiders on my front porch because they eat bugs, but if they get too close to the front door, I'm still going to dose them with Raid. So tolerance...well, it's better than getting dosed with Raid right off the bat. As a step along the way, sure, but as an end goal to be striven towards, I think it's a bit lacking.

The thing is, we're still behaving as if these intangibles we fight over are in limited supply. As if, were we to grant justice and equality to too many people, the supply would run short. As if God (presuming one believes in a God) is as small, and limited, and fearful of the Other as we are. I'm not going to pretend I'm a terribly religious person now, but I was raised that way, and the lessons learned as a child do tend to stick. The God I learned to revere as a child is neither ashamed nor afraid of me.

This, of course, is one reason we fear the Other: because those lessons do stick. If the Other gets hold of the children--if the Other is allowed to marry, or adopt, or teach, or hold hands in public--then the next generation will grow up that much less afraid, that much less threatened. The Other, horror of horrors, will be revealed as us.

My Uncle Charles is probably gay. I don't know for sure. According to Mom he's never married, never dated any women after his early twenties, and he's had a lot of hunky 'best friends' over the years. I didn't find out about this till long after I came out myself. I would love to ask him about it. If it's true, what was his life like, growing up in the 30s and discovering that for him, to love was to invite shame and scorn and potential beatings, arrests, or death? Uncle Charles is now in his late 80s, living in a nursing home in Texas. Even if he were inclined to tell his life story to a niece he barely knows, I wouldn't know how to ask him. How do you tell a man who's very possibly lived in fear all his life that hey, it's OK to come out now? Especially when it's not OK, and probably won't be OK for a long time?

I didn't have a particularly traumatic coming-out. Some of my friends were discomfited, but I didn't get disowned or yelled at or anything like that. But even for someone like me, it was a confusing, painful, and fearful time. I didn't know how my family would react. How much easier would it have been had I known that hey, I have an uncle who's gay!

My niece and my nephew are going to grow up knowing Aunt Kathy. She's not going to be Barb's "um, friend" to them, she's going to be Barb's partner and someday Barb's wife. In the event that one of them turns out to be gay, I hope the fact that I'm out will make their discovery of themselves easier and happier than mine was--and infinitely less painful than my uncle's may have been.

This is why I cannot keep silent. I am a link in the chain. When I look over my shoulder there are giants behind me: the AIDs activists of the 80s and 90s, the lesbian separatists of the 70s, the drag queens at Stonewall, the essayists of the 50s, the lesbian WACs in WW II, the writers and artists of the 20s and 30s. I am not in their league. I'm not a James Baldwin or an Anais Nin. I hope to God I'm never a Matthew Shepard. But I owe it to those who've fought and struggled and shed blood for the past century to get me where I am today to fight and struggle just as hard. Even more, I owe it to the children growing up now to give them a world which is freer, more compassionate, and more just than the one I was born into.

There are issues on which I can agree to disagree. This is not one of them. Immediate goals may change, certainly; if changing the name from 'marriage' to 'civil union' will calm the fears of some who oppose it, then great, let's try that. But the ideals behind the goals cannot be forgotten, cannot be abandoned for political expediency, and must inform those goals if the goals are to mean anything at all.

So I can't be your pet dyke. I can't pretend that because you read my fic or laugh at my jokes that I don't mind if you voted to restrict my civil rights, and are allied with those who would do worse if they could--would restrict me from teaching, or adopting, or holding hands in public. Who would turn the clock back and have me, and my niece and my nephew, grow up in fear and shame. You see, I fear the Other just as much as you do. And I can point to nice concrete things that the Other will take away from me if they triumph. My rights. my freedom. And sadly (it has only been a few years since Mr Shepard was hung on a fence to die) possibly even my life.

But I have to fight that fear. We cannot, should not, must not, demonize our opponents. No matter how much we disagree with what they do or what they believe, we cannot resort to the tactics of fear and division. Because we are not living on a savannah any longer. We're living on a planet that's growing smaller every day, a world in which all of us are intimately interconnected whether we like it or not. There is no other water hole to move to. And while there is only so much water and so many antelope, there is an infinite supply of justice, if only we have the wisdom and the courage to use it. And we must show those who are afraid that there is no reason for that fear, that we are not the Enemy, not the Other. That we are their parents and siblings and children. That we are, just as they are, Americans. It will not be easy. It will not be quick. It's been a hundred and forty years since the Emancipation Proclamation, eighty years since women were given the vote.

But it is a fight which must be fought. Not because it is politically expedient or because gay is the new black. But because it is the right thing to do, for our sakes, for their sakes, and for the sake of the children.

And now I'm going to go write Buffy/Demon!Spike porn. Thank you.

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Comments

( 29 comments — Leave a comment )
(Anonymous)
Jun. 26th, 2015 06:01 pm (UTC)
This Is Nutmeg3
My phone isn't letting me log into LJ, but I just wanted to say this was beautifully written and you made me cry in a good way.
the_moonmoth
Jun. 26th, 2015 06:07 pm (UTC)
*wild applause*

And while there is only so much water and so many antelope, there is an infinite supply of justice, if only we have the wisdom and the courage to use it.

Yes. Eloquently put :) Congrats on the verdict today.
velvetwhip
Jun. 26th, 2015 06:11 pm (UTC)
I am so grateful that this day has come. I've never understood hatred and bigotry and I am so glad of that. I hope someday that no one does; that in the future everyone will wonder what the hell was wrong with the planet way back "then." Today I hope we have started on the road to turning that hope into truth.


Gabrielle
paratti
Jun. 26th, 2015 06:17 pm (UTC)
Applauds.
dinpik
Jun. 26th, 2015 06:19 pm (UTC)
I remember when you wrote this. And I think today what I thought then: "Goddamn, woman -- on the fucking nose."

Brava,meine freunde, brava.
enigmaticblues
Jun. 26th, 2015 06:25 pm (UTC)
Congratulations on your marriage being legal in all 50 states! May things only get better from here!
klytaimnestra
Jun. 26th, 2015 06:27 pm (UTC)
congratulations on the vote!
I was delighted. It sure happened fast once momentum started to build!
manoah
Jun. 26th, 2015 06:31 pm (UTC)
I honor the place in you in which the entire Universe dwells.

I honor the place in you which is of love, of light, of truth and of peace.

And when you are in that place in you and I am in that place in me,

Then, truly, we are all one.

Namaste
waddiwasiwitch
Jun. 26th, 2015 06:35 pm (UTC)
Well said and eloquently put. Brava!!
beer_good_foamy
Jun. 26th, 2015 06:44 pm (UTC)
*applause*

And while there is only so much water and so many antelope, there is an infinite supply of justice

I'd even say it's inversely infinite: the more people have it, the more it's worth to all of us.

Congrats to you and Kathy, and to all Americans.
kikimay
Jun. 26th, 2015 07:29 pm (UTC)
I'm really happy for you! And I hope that the rest of the world will follow your example.
double_dutchess
Jun. 26th, 2015 07:42 pm (UTC)
Congratulations!! I'm very happy with this step forward. And thanks for the great essay; very well put.

BTW, I've always thought your "gay agenda" icon is just brilliant.

Oh and I'm looking foward to the celebratory demon!porn.
elisi
Jun. 26th, 2015 08:46 pm (UTC)
Well said.

::applauds::
torrilin
Jun. 26th, 2015 08:51 pm (UTC)
More justice is good. And I'm so glad you and Kathy are married in all 50 states now, and that your taxes got simpler. And I love that PBS made us an infographic of all the other stuff you guys have today that you didn't have yesterday.
feliciacraft
Jun. 26th, 2015 09:32 pm (UTC)
Congratulations on the verdict today! This has been the social issue of our generation and I'm so very pleased that acceptance and love prevailed in the end.

And yes, now for some Buffy/Demon!Spike p0rn! I interrupted my fic writing this morning to do a post on the ruling (only half coherent, but it had to be posted NOW), and having read your thoughtful and eloquent essay, I'm going back to my story with a smile on my face.
rebcake
Jun. 26th, 2015 10:03 pm (UTC)
Hurrah! That was (relatively) quick, wasn't it? *confetti*

there is an infinite supply of justice, if only we have the wisdom and the courage to use it.

And while this particular fight is won, there are still several more to go. But first, I have a street party to attend!
shapinglight
Jun. 26th, 2015 10:19 pm (UTC)
Such wonderful news.

Congratulations!
ljs
Jun. 26th, 2015 10:28 pm (UTC)
Thanks, then and now. What a great day.
istar
Jun. 26th, 2015 10:40 pm (UTC)
So MUCH Yes. I'm excited that our country is correcting an egregious inequality, I love your perspective, I love your fic. Thanks for this essay!
pfeifferpack
Jun. 26th, 2015 11:44 pm (UTC)
Beautifully stated then, just as relevant now.

It is a good day today but a day that cannot be taken for granted (there will be those still wanting their water hole back and do any trick to get it).

It is also not finished, not so long as anyone has to fight or ask for the same rights as another. Not so long as just being who you are is cause for fear or makes you an object of ridicule. Not so long as someone else has the "right" to define you.

Keep on ranting.

*hugs* and a happy dance,
Kathleen
gillo
Jun. 27th, 2015 12:07 am (UTC)
I am delighted that Americans now have access to equal marriage. It doesn't destroy homophobia, but it's a good start.
varina8
Jun. 27th, 2015 12:47 am (UTC)
I'm delighted with today's decision, and gratified to see your essay once again. You were right on the money then and now.
cornerofmadness
Jun. 27th, 2015 02:51 am (UTC)
That was beautifully written
lynnenne
Jun. 27th, 2015 03:43 am (UTC)
Congratulations on this victory. \0/
enname
Jun. 27th, 2015 03:49 am (UTC)
That was good news to wake up to this morning, now if only our government could cease being such spineless, conservative dicks. I won't hold my breath.

Has it been eleven years since you wrote this? A lie! I remember it being a few years ago at most. *blink*
tripleransom
Jun. 27th, 2015 07:07 pm (UTC)
Wow. Well said. Have you ever thought of running for office?
baudown
Jun. 27th, 2015 11:30 pm (UTC)
It happened. It happened in our lifetime. I'm still sort of in shock.
ayinhara
Jun. 28th, 2015 03:13 pm (UTC)
It was a good two days of decisions at the Supreme Court. There is much more to do, but it is a giant step forward for equal rights.

It must be great to now be legally married in all 50 states.
thisficklemob
Jun. 29th, 2015 11:22 pm (UTC)
I think I remember this essay from back then. It was good then and it's good now.

That limited supply of justice thing came up in a book I read recently -- post-societal breakdown, this town had gone back to men running everything, specifically said with no objections from the women. Which a) underestimates women, b) misunderstands who actually gets shit done in many small towns, and c) is gross.

The author said something about the "pretenses of egalitarianism" having gone away with the years of plenty. And I was like, "It wasn't pretenses to a lot of people! Including many men. And egalitarianism is not a limited resource, like oil."

Ugh, it was so annoying. And exactly the same sort of bullshit that people feel when they think others having rights deprives them somehow.

(I don't believe in censorship, but I was tempted to put a note in that library book warning others that it was sexist, racist, classist, etc., so they didn't have to waste their time. :p)
( 29 comments — Leave a comment )

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