When I was 19, I rented a house for the summer with two other girls. It was a really nice white brick ranch in an upscale suburban neighborhood, but looking back, we were probably the neighbors from hell. Our grass always needed cutting – to the point we would get notices from the city -and we never used our garage for cars, just garbage.
Then one cold winter day we saw a mouse in the garage and freaked. Next garbage day, we dragged every last bag to the curb. There must have been a hundred of them, and not all in great condition. There were torn bags leaking mystery material and soggy boxes with the bottoms about to rot through. More than once we worried aloud that the garbage guys might not take our trash pile, but we were teenagers; that concern never translate into an attempt to make it less disgusting. For the life of me I don’t remember why we didn’t have our boyfriends do the job. Must have been a woman’s lib thing.
The next morning, we were relieved to see every last scrap of our garbage was gone. That feeling lasted for about a thirty seconds. That’s when we realized someone had taken all of our garbage, but every other house on the street still had their neat offerings of cans and securely-tied bags waiting to be collected.
We never discovered who it was who helped themselves to our mountain of trash. We had some crazy theories, like the cops took it looking for evidence we were selling drugs, (we weren’t) or (sorry about this one) some pervert who had seen us in a club was looking for something to gaze upon while he loved himself. I still wonder about it sometimes. But I never discovered who did it, or why. As a writer of fiction, I like to think I can explain away anything; but I’ve never really come up with a plausible theory.
I was thinking about that disappearing garbage this week, because I had another mystery midnight visitor, a visitor that made me think of you – of us – of gay people and their straight allies, and how this would be a really good time to begin to use that alliance as something more than a statistic to point to when we want to show attitudes about gays are changing.
Sometime after 11:30 p.m., when I took Puck out for last call, and 8:30 a.m. when he opened his day in a similar fashion, someone turned over my flower beds. For a moment, I thought the grounds crew was offering a new service, because they have traditionally taken care of everything growing outside the patio fences and the owners are responsible for inside. I was happy with the discovery for about thirty seconds. That’s when, accompanied by an unexpected flashback to that disappearing garbage pile of old, I realized it was only my garden that had been dug up. That same section of every one of my neighbors’ gardens is still littered with the debris left behind by a hard winter, waiting for attention.
I did my best to deduce who the midnight digger could have been. I reasoned that it must be one of my neighbors, someone who knows that patch along my patio fence is where I traditionally grow my tomatoes. A helpful neighbor also makes sense because they could have seen my arm in a sling a couple weeks back. But who? And why now? Planting season in Michigan is still a month away.
There are twelve condos that overlook a common green space where I live, so I considered my eleven neighbors. Three of them are new, so they would have no idea I even grew tomatoes. The couple on the corner have a four-day-old baby, surely they aren’t creeping around in the dark during 2 a.m. feedings. The forty-something guy across the way just had emergency heart by-pass surgery. One by one I eliminated all of them. I admit I am as clueless to the identity of my nighttime gardener as I am to the identity of my nighttime garbage collector.
Seven-year-old Maddie conducted her own investigation by “accidentally” kicking a soccer ball into all the fenced in patios to look for a shovel. She reported back that no digging implements or tell-tale muddy footprints were found. Then she made the observation that caused me to think of us when she mused:
“At least we know these are friendly friends. Maybe if I leave out my broken toys they’ll fix them. Like the shoemaker left out the leather for the elves to come and make boots.”
And that’s what made me think of you. Of us. Of gay people beginning to use their own “friendly friends” as a pressure point. I even have an idea for a good place for that to start: May 1, in Georgia, where Louddmouth Radio is sponsoring statewide protests at the state’s clerks offices.
Sabrina (right) and Joyce Jones-Smith, better known as Sonny and Jazzie of LouddMouthRadio.com, are both business partners and life partners, married legally in Washington D.C. March 24. The women have been On Our Radar lately as organizers of the upcoming May Day Georgia Marriage Equality Initiative, asking same-sex Georgia couples who would like to marry, to apply for a license on May 1, even though they will be turned away.
“Historically, ‘May Day’ is a distress signal and the May Day Georgia Marriage Equality Campaign was created as a distress call for civil and human equality in Georgia.
A lot of people want to put us in this box and say we are fighting. We are not fighting. We are speaking calmly, and we are rallying as many couples as we can on May 1 to go to your local county and say, very politely, ‘Can I have a marriage license for my partner and I to get married?’
The answer will be absolutely not.
You’re going to smile so sweetly and say thank you. You’re going to take your denial paper and take a picture with it and hashtag it #MayDayGaEquality and send it to us and we’re going to plaster it all over the place.
You don’t have to like us. It’s not even about us being accepted. What it is about is saying, ‘I’m a human and I love this other human and I have this right, period.’ We have the same right as everybody else.”
Jazzie (right) and Sonny say there are an estimated 20,000 same-sex couples in Georgia who would like to marry, and they are working feverishly to turn them out. But here’s my thought. Why does it have to be same-sex couples asking for an application? Why can’t two unmarried straight allies ask for a license they aren’t going to be granted anyway?
It seems to me the straight allies who actively back the gay community are an under-utilized resource, mostly because they don’t know what to do. We need to start inviting them in. We need to leave leather on the work table to be turned into boots. It’s time to unleash their numbers in a noticeable way.
If you live in Georgia, and can help with the May Day protest, you can RSVP here. If you are a straight ally, maybe it’s time we give some thought on how to use our resources in a strategic manner. The gay community is strong but it’s small. Numbers matter, especially when dealing with government officials who worry about votes – and we straight allies have numbers to lend the cause.