Thursday, May 10, 2012

You Belong

The President's statement yesterday about his personal support for same sex marriage reminded me of a diary I wrote following his signing of the repeal of DADT. I titled that one You Belong. Here it is again:

This morning President Obama signed the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." A few pictures from the event speak volumes about what it means to be told "you belong" after years of exclusion.

It reminds me of another moment two years ago when that same message reached a different group of people.

This issue of belonging runs deep. And sometimes we become so accustomed to the feeling of not belonging that when we are finally welcomed in, the depth of that silent longing surprises us. I remember having that experience when Mondale chose Ferraro as his running mate. In the lead-up to the announcement my reaction was, "meh, not a big deal." But when I watched it actually happen on TV, I wept.

I'm seeing that same reaction from many of my gay/lesbian brothers and sisters today. The very same feelings folks had in that room the day DADT was repealed. And the night African Americans celebrated almost 4 years ago. E.J. Graff captured it beautifully.
Well, I guess I'm cynical. I had a list of reasons as long as my arm for President Obama NOT to state that he favors equal marriage. My heart is turning such cartwheels that I am not sure I can write anything cogent...

...apparently not everything in the world is politics, is it? Sometimes—just for a minute—politics is very, very personal.

In 2004, I sat in a Unitarian pew while my friends Hillary and Julie Goodridge said their vows. I was absolutely fine with all the lead-up—they'd been together as long as I had been with my beloved partner, and I'd known them before that. Then came the phrase "By the power vested in me by the commonwealth of Massachusetts"—and I was sobbing harder than I knew was possible. So were the hardbitten LGBT activists around me, even those who weren't especially happy about the pursuit of marriage. As we all managed to sit up and dry our eyes, a little embarrassed at how raw the emotion was, one of the latter said, "I guess being ready for something intellectually isn't the same as being ready emotionally."

There's something very deep about having your government declare you a stranger to its laws, defining your love as outside all respectable recognition. For my president to stand up and say that I should belong fully to my nation, that my wife and I should be considered as fully married as my brother and his wife—well, it reopens and washes out some very deeply incised sense of exclusion, a scar inflicted when, at age 15, I first panicked at the realization that I might be queer.

But not so queer, really, if even my president believes that my marriage is the equal of his. Politics tomorrow. Today is a good day.


  1. I am very disappointed in how long he waited to come out on this.

    Discrimination against homosexuals is irrational and he knew this all along.

    I am glad he came out of his own political closet now, but he remained there too long. By not coming out and supporting the rights of all Americans, he implicitly denounced them.

    1. Your comment is loaded with assumptions.

      For example, are you suggesting that when he talked about being in the process of evolving he was playing some kind of political game with us?

      If so, I don't agree. To assume that means you're playing mind-reader. Certainly that is a prerogative we often afford ourselves with politicians. But that fact is - you don't know.

      I take him at his word. Perhaps that's because I know and embrace the spirit of evolution on this topic and many others.

      I'm not saying he wasn't wrong. He was. And I have no problems saying that. But as I understand your point - its very different.

    2. I don't think Obama was being disingenuous. He admits to thinking about this. I would prefer a human being to come to his conclusions AFTER serious thought than just jumping on some bandwagon for convenience.
      He speaking about looking at the situation through his children's eyes. And realizing that makes him a caring person.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. I am not saying he should play political games with us. I am suggesting that he was playing political games and that he just stopped playing them, which was also a political decisions, ironically.

      He always knew not embracing the rights of gays to marry was wrong, but he is only now admitting it. His justification for this was that he thought "Civil Unions" were somehow a workable substitute. Once he says this, I have to assume that he was previously ignorant or that he is now being deceitful. I know he was not ignorant.

      I suspect that the real story is that he realized that his left-leaning base was annoyed by his moderate philosophy in all the wrong places. His decision to stay closeted in the past was political. His decision to come out now was a most likely also political, but probably does reflect his real belief, which is refreshing.

      I give him kudos for coming out now, but then I scoop them up for not coming out sooner. Therefore, in my mind, this is a wash at best.

    5. I didn't say that you said that he should play political games with us.

      I said that you said that his IS playing political games with us. And that's what you just affirmed.

      I disagree.

      He struggled with what he believed about marriage. He was honest with us about that struggle. And he has now resolved that struggle and let us know.

      Perhaps you've always been enlightened about that issue. I haven't. So I know what its like to struggle through something that got embedded into your belief system.

      Both of us are making assumptions about what was behind all of this. Its just that I have the advantage of basing my assumptions on what Obama actually said. In other words...I believe him. You don't. That's your prerogative. I'd simply ask you to think about whether or not lying for political purposes is something that fits with who you think he is. I suspect that's the core issue.

    6. One more thing...

      For most of us, our prejudices are embedded in ignorance (in the classic definition of that word). Yesterday Obama talked about how gay members of his administration and the military and his daughters friend's gay parents all had an affect on changing his personal views. In other words, he got less ignorant and that's why he changed.

      So in your duality of ignorance or deceit, I'd suggest the former.

  2. I respectfully disagree John. The President has been standing up for gay rights in action for the entirety of his presidency. He has a long list of accomplishments that have expanded gay rights, and he has denounced publicly the states who have put up legislation to restrict those rights. He has been standing up for the LBGT community for years, and as far as I'm concerned, him letting us in on his private feelings on it is icing on an already wonderful cake.

    1. It was comments like that that I oppose: I don't think marriage is a civil right and What I believe is that marriage is between a man and a woman and What I believe, in my faith, is that a man and a woman, when they get married, are performing something before God, and it’s not simply the two persons who are meeting,

      I will concede that he has been on the “good side” more often than not.

  3. This is the best piece on this topic that I have read so far.