This will be a lot easier if you take my word that I am on your side.
I think every last LGBTIQ person on this planet should have equal rights, and equal opportunities, and legal protections to make sure those first two things happen. I’m starting with this assurance because I regularly get comments that let me know I am everything that’s wrong with straight people. So if I say something you think is inartfully expressed – like I recently used the term “HIV infected” – it isn’t that I’m trying to insult anyone living with HIV, or that I don’t care enough to learn what’s PC. I’m just human. I make mistakes. And let’s be fair, we are all grasping a different place on the learning curve of life.
I also want you to know what I need to say today is not meant as a criticism. The LGBT community has valid reasons to be distrustful, to be cynical, and to want revenge. This is a plea to embrace winning. Do a little dance in honor of Edie and Thea. High five a little. Give the bird to FOX News when no one’s looking. Take a moment to be amused by Michele Bachmann, or to have a laugh at Rick Santorum. Because you are winning.
An amazing event in history happened in my state this week to people who have become very dear to my heart. The amendment to the Michigan state constitution that declares marriage to be only between a man and a woman was struck down. That’s a win. A clear win. A HUGE win. If you want to see what happiness looks like, look no further than the faces of Jayne and April DeBoer-Rowse in the photos above. I called them Superheros when I first met them at the beginning of their journey, and they proved me right. They saved their children. But if you want to see what the face of victory looks like, look at the face of Dana Nessel, the other woman the photo. She, along with Carole Stanyar were the legal warriors who did the research and wrote the briefs and made the arguments, and went to battle while the Superheroes hugged their children and hoped.
When the three women exchanged that hug of victory, they did not yet know if the decision had been stayed. They knew for certain it would be appealed. But they celebrated anyway. So if you are one of those well-intentioned people who believe in LGBT equality, but who looked at that picture at the top of the page and thought “Too bad about the stay” you are the person I want to plead with:
PLEASE STOP SHITTING ON OUR VICTORIES.
In America, the struggle for gay equality has tremendous momentum. That can’t be said of gays everywhere, which should make us (the LGBT community and its straight allies, like me) more appreciative and protective of our progress. Harvey Milk’s strategy is working. I can understand being cautious. Being wary. Being suspicious. And yes, there are still wounds to bind and scars to hide. But the time has come to embrace our inner Rocky. To lay clear claim to each and every victory without sullying it with publicly complaining of its shortcomings.
In the information war, whenever you say, “Yes, we won but…”, whatever comes on the other side of that “but” is a win for the other side.
There was a tremendous celebration here in Michigan yesterday as more than 300 couples rushed to get married, in what turned out to be a very short window of time in which they were legal. I posted some of their photos yesterday on our Facebook page so we could all share in their excitement and send our good wishes to them. It usually happens, that even if I don’t have a name to go with the photo, someone who knows the couple will spot it, and tell them about it, so most of those happy couples will visit our site, and read the congratulations. Telling them “Too bad about the stay”, under their wedding picture is like going to a reception and writing in the guest book, “Do you know your husband is sleeping with his personal trainer?”
It is our job to be the victors. If you need to let people know that a stay was posted say, “Glad you made it under the wire”. Let the trolls point out the next battle to come. Today we are celebrating. Three hundred couples in Michigan got married and are now eligible for federal benefits. The door for marriage equality and adoption equality in Michigan has been wedged open. It is FOX News’ job to make the victories seem less significant than they are by emphasizing the stay and the appeal. It seems lately we have been doing their job for them. Let me give you some examples.
When Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy admitted that he made a mistake getting his company involved in the marriage debate, that was a dead on slam dunk victory. Yet, there seemed to be a tendency to diminish that win by saying “Yeah, he’s just saying that because it hurt his bottom line, Cathy is still a “douche bag.” True on the douchebaggery. But making Cathy into Gandhi was never the goal. Also true on the bottom line accusation. That’s why it’s a win.
When the LGBT community boycotted Chick-fil-A, when they picketed outside stores, and when they held gay-kiss-in protests, the goal was always to make Cathy suffer enough financial hardship that he would regret involving his company in the marriage debate. That is exactly what happened. So celebrate that win! Don’t tag that campaign with a loss because Cathy is still a douche bag who only cares about his bottom line. Say, “Take that you freaking douche bag! Bend over and take it right in the wallet.”
A week ago, an Arizona-like “turn away the gays bill” was defeated in Mississippi. The House turned it into a “study” sending it back to committee before they adjourned for the summer. Yes, it could still be rewritten come back again in the next session, but it didn’t pass in this one. That’s a win. But what was the first comment, written under the post, made so quickly it would have been impossible to even open the link much less read the piece? “This isn’t a win. They’ll just try again.”
That’s like saying Roe V Wade wan’t a win because Texas is trying to close down abortion clinics.
There were even people who, on the day the Supreme Court announced its DOMA decision, complained it wasn’t really a win because the justices didn’t strike down marriage inequality nationwide. Do you think we can lower that bar just a tad?
One last thought about being the victors. As the old saying goes, to the victors go the spoils. The Harvey Milk strategy of coming out to let people see that gay people are everywhere, in every family, every community, has served the cause of LGBT acceptance well. But now you have a decision to make. You wanted minds to change, and now they are changing. So now what? You have a choice to make. Do you follow the Mandela model and say, welcome to the right side of history? Or do you hold the grudge?
I am often discouraged by the reaction to Republicans who have a change of heart and vote for marriage equality or ENDA after years of voting the other way. The comments are always quick to point to his past history of anti-gay votes. Even Rob Portman who had a change of heart when his own son came out was not treated kindly. So along with how to be a gracious winner, maybe we should give some thoughts to being a forgiving winner. Why care about changing hearts and minds if after they’ve changed, we stand behind a wall throw stones?
OK. Have at me and tell me why I’m… well, I’ll let you fill in your own thoughts.
Photos from Youtube
Jean Ann Esselink is a straight friend to the gay community. Proud and loud Liberal. Closet writer of political fiction. Black sheep agnostic Democrat from a conservative Catholic family. Living in Northern Oakland County Michigan with Puck the Wonder Beagle.