Many of us are scared, but all of us are uncertain
As we try to move forward, one thing I would like to hear from Trump supporters (or even just the "get over it" crowd) is acknowledgement of the great unknown into which we have elected to enter. Whether we chose the path or were led down it, we are all now there. Together.
As one who has had strong hobbyist, activist, and professional interests in the outcome of elections, I've experienced many losses. Sure, they can be painful. Yes, you can feel like lashing out. Of course you vow to step up and fight back. That is the nature of the game. With this one, however, the game is in a completely different ballpark.
If John McCain has slurred a gold star family, it would have been a disqualified. If Mitt Romney had become the first modern presidential candidate to refuse to release his tax returns (under BS reasoning), it would have been scandal. If Barack Obama had vowed to ban millions from entering the country on the sole basis of their faith, he would have been driven out of the election by both Republicans and Democrats. If Hillary Clinton had been caught on audio saying her fame gave her permission to grab men by the dick, she would have been castigated by those who have tried to burn her at the stake for much less. Heck, if any one of these candidates had even been married three times (with admitted mistresses, or with a spouse who was thought to have worked in this country before legally allowed to do so), it would have been noted as a reason to question his or her character. But with Trump, all off this stuff (and oh so much more) was given a strange pass. This pass is some of what scares us.
Even if you are Trump's biggest fan, you have to admit that we are taking a major risk with this guy. He has not been able to capably voice much of anything in the way of policy experience. He has shown himself completely lacking in concern for any of our institutions or traditions. By wide miles, he has less foreign policy experience than anyone to ever seek this office. His own business interests are shaded with failures and fraud accusations. He is untested in every way, and has done almost nothing to appease those who have questioned these massive gaps in experience (saying things will be "great" is not a plan).
When it comes to defending Roe, LGBT rights, healthcare, or any of the countless policy planks at stake, I am more than up for that challenge. That is the way the political process works. Anyone involved in government knows that being in a place of opposition is something one must occasionally endure, and most are ready to rise to that occasion. What scares most of us more this time around is this new, deeper, and more dangerous place of not only disagreeing with the president-elect but *actively fearing* that this person could be a true threat to our basic physical safety. This is where I am with this election. I am truly afraid, for the first time in my adult life, that this commander in chief will lead to our deaths. I am not being hyperbolic. I truly fear for our safety.
It's one thing for Donald Trump, Apprentice host, to tell a Times reporter that she has a "face like a dog." When President Trump does it to Angela Merkel, he will tarnish our reputation on a global scale.
It's one thing for Donald Trump, vodka salesman, to call Twitter critics "losers" (and much worse). When President Trump does it to a foreign adversary, he can set off nuclear winter.
It's one thing for Donald Trump, gaudy decor enthusiast, to threaten to jail his political rival or slur the press. When President Trump goes after the very concepts of rivalry, criticism, and accountability, it could lead to mass civil rights violations that rip apart the very fabric of this nation.
I didn't agree with President Bush (41 or 43, for that matter), but I trusted he understood the basic underpinnings of this great nation. I didn't vote for Romney or McCain, but I did not think for a second that those men would use personal pettiness as a justification for war. I've never once in my life voted for a Republican, but I've also never felt that the party was going more in a direction that legitimately brought it closer to some of the past's most oppressive regimes than toward the shining beacon on the hill that was said to be its aspiration.
And it's not my liberal politics or any media outlet that lead me to these conclusions: it's the unbelievably shocking words and actions of the man who the electoral vote (but not the popular vote) will soon usher in as these 45th president of the United States. He built this.
This time is different. And even if you are Trump's most outspoken fan, you have to admit that.
Many of us are scared, but we are all uncertain. Even if you think you are certain, you are not. There is no way you can be. The American experiment has never tested a hypothesis of this nature.
I never got the chance to come out (#NationalComingOutDay)
Even though I have shared every aspect of my gay life in so many fora, it occurs to me that I have never really told my coming out story. So here goes.
Home for Thanksgiving during my third year of college, I did a load of laundry before I was set to return to campus. It wasn't until my clothes were already wet in the washer that my parents informed me our dryer had been acting up and would never get my clothes in a suitable condition in the hours I had left before it was time to leave. Their advice was for me to head down to the local laundromat and dry my clothes there, which is precisely what I did.
When I completed the uneventful chore, I returned to a clearly emotionally charged house. I didn't know why. I couldn't know why. I had no reason to know why. For me, it was the most routine return following the most rote of experiences. I wasn't suspecting tedium to meet drama.
I also wasn't as on guard as I had been in prior years. By this time, I was out to everyone at school and in my personal life, short of my family. I was already on my second real boyfriend, with a few randoms in-between. My friends and created community were wonderfully supportive, so I has dropped so many of the walls and so much of the armor that I had used when I lived at home during high school. Back then, I knew and was perfectly okay with being gay, but I knew that my parents were not. By this time in college, I still knew that to be true, but I found myself caring less and less. I started seeing whatever problems they had with me as being exactly that: their problem and not mine.
So I return home, clothes smelling of Downy. I instantly see my mom, eyes stained with tears.
She didn't confront me so much as just sort of babble some stuff about me hurting her and myself and my life. It was all kind of a blur, but it didn't take me long to realize she was talking about me being gay. I was blindsided by the whole scene, and a bit scared as well. But mostly I was confused. How had she "found out" for sure? This was a time when email was in its infancy and social media wasn't yet a glimmer in Mark Zuckerberg's then-adolescent eye, so it wasn't nearly as easy for parents to stumble on a child's oversharing or make contact with a jealous ex-boyfriend. Even as I pieced together the "why" of this AfterSchool Special playing out before me, I was somewhat more focused on the "how."
It wasn't until the 160 mile drive back to school that I figured it out. In acting class that year, the professor had us all keep a journal. I had never been the kind of kid to keep one, so for me it was like a new toy. I splurged on a really nice one and found myself writing in it not only for my acting assignments, but for every aspect of my life. It became a trusted friend and tool for sorting out my confusion. It never left my side.
Except it did leave my side one time during that Thanksgiving visit home: when I was at the laundromat. And that is when my mom went into my back and chose to read this most private of books. This is how my mother confirmed her suspicions that her son was, in fact, a gay man.
For me, this was a betrayal that I never really shook. Anyone who knows my story knows that the ensuing years were ones filled with much familial strife and that, to this day, are defined by broken connections. But while creation of a gay son was the struggle for my parents, I spent the weeks and months and years following this episode knowing that I could never again trust my parents to honor my personal space, right to privacy, or ability to time my own life's major moments. No matter how harsh or argumentative the wave of non-acceptance got on the other side, I maintained (and continue to maintain) that I am the only one of the involved parties who had a right to be outraged. Being gay is who I am; being a snoop was a parental choice.
I always feel a little weird on this day because I don't really have a National Coming Out Day story. I'd love to have one like my husband's which goes something like, "I'm gay" before an instant follow up of, "Oh thank God, I thought you were going to say you had cancer" and an immediate decision to seek out the local PFLAG chapter. That, however, was not in the cards for me. My story is messy and wrong and was pulled out of me like a tortured confession. I will forever wonder how things might be a little different, especially on my end, had I been able to do it on my own terms.
When do they make that mass public apology?
The predictions haven't come true, and they won't come true. Because they never were true. They never were even meant to be true. They were designed for temporal fear, not long held veracity.
So at what point do the antiequality activists who said this thing or that meteor would befall us once marriage equality took hold have to release a group apology for the years of time and considerable resources they forced us all to waste in order to fight off their perversion of our natural world? When do they admit that they were woefully, dangerously, dastardly wrong? What kind of peace offering will they put on the table as a make-good for their unjust, unseemly, at at times unconscionable behavior?
I'm being glib, of course—but only in part. Ours is a nation that could desperately use some healing, and we start the process by owning and accurately addressing the many wrongs of our imperfect past. Painting our equality as a destructive force was an abject wrong that harmed countless many. It is one of many wrongs, and a small one when compared to others. But there does need to be a coda, and it should contain a heartfelt plea from those who abused both faith and intellect in order to convince our neighbors that our loving bonds were ticking time bombs waiting to annihilate the values of our country. They messed up majorly. They must own it.
Where The Kooks Have No Name
About a month ago, Bryan Fischer started following me on Twitter. It's been over a year since I've written the man's name, and much longer since I've given him any real credence as a political operative, yet there he was in my notifications, letting me know that my presence continues to linger in his consciousness.
In the time since I've stepped away from the so-called "culture war," I've experienced similar pop-ins from similarly heated activists—a social media blip here, an e-newsletter there. There's are names that used to fill my days—my weeks, my months, my years—in a very real and impactful ways. There work is the work that I used to beat back in order to lend dominance to my and my team's own message. They are the adversaries whose missteps would thrill my souls, and whose misbegotten wins would further ignite my fire.
But now? Now, it's as if they no longer exist. They are not like old friends whose re-entrance sparks a nostalgic curiosity for days gone by. They are not like former colleagues whose work holds a lingering curiosity in my mind. They are not evergreen foes whose continuing lives I wish to hinder in any lasting way. They are just kind of—there. They are little more than nominal footnotes who I'm glad to relegate to the past. I don't feel happiness or disgust when they reappear. I just feel, well—nothing.
And it's not that I fail to recognize that some of these folks continue to have a degree of influence. I know that some of these people and groups continue to have the ear of a scattered conservative movement that is going through a Trumpian identity crisis. I get that there are continued fights and that they are still strategizing ways to stop and/or roll back the clock. I really do get this. But I also know that once I took a step back from the fight, in a period that coincided with our most major political and cultural wins in our movement's history, a stagehand in my brain turned out the lights on the long-winded tragicomedy that defined a decade of my life. This cast of characters might go on to new plots, but I am no longer going to be in the audience. I'm completely comfortable not knowing what wacky antics they might get into next.
Could this change? Sure. President Donald J. Trump could appoint Secretary of State Tony Perkins and Supreme Court Justice Maggie Gallagher, and I'd sign of for the sequel. But while I have the utmost respect for my friends and colleagues who continue to track the animus-driven men and women who dedicate their days to limiting the lives of others, I feel completely comfortable with my own retirement from that gig. And I am also proud to deliver the news that once you do make the choice to step away from this nonsense, the effects from the outsized antics of this relatively small band of operatives do dissipate rather quickly. The world is big and imperfect and sometimes awful, but it's much deeper and more nuanced than the "culture war" setup can lead one to believe. They are not nearly as important as they think they are.
Where art thou, Jeremy?
Yes, I do plan to put some more words on this website. But in the meantime, your best bet for hearing and/or interacting with my musings is to follow me on Twitter. Why? Because that's the one creative outlet I can stealthily handle from my phone while on daddy duty with an increasingly aware toddler (and even there, one pithy thought often takes about two hours to compose, since Play Doh breaks and Raffi dance-a-longs come with an immediacy that my need to commentate the day's events can't match).
You can find me @GoodAsYou.
2006: When Clinton vocally supported her state moving forward w/ marriage equality but Sanders did not
In 2006, Bernie Sanders, a civil unions supporter, did not support his state taking the next step to legalize marriage equality:
June 7, 2006
That same year, Hillary Clinton, who had been an outspoken civil unions supporter since 2000...
...went on record saying she would support New York making the decision to move forward with full marriage equality:
And like most Democrats (or Independents), they did both ultimately evolve, Bernie in 2009 and Hillary in 2013 (after leaving State and a period she rarely took political positions). But let's please stop pretending that one rode in on a white horse while the other rode in after leaving the Westboro Baptist protest that she had previously been attending. Those were not the aughts that I remember—and I was right there in the center of it.
Video: Ad for blemish remover/ tourist spot for our new, bettered America
The tide has turned, Tide reminds us:
Whether justified or Kim Davis-ed, individualistic rage rarely outplays broader truths
In his 2011 book The War For Late Night, Bill Carter tells a story that really resonated with me. It's a private conversation between Conan O'Brien and a top NBC executive. The conversation took place after it was clear that Jay Leno was not really leaving his Tonight Show perch in Conan's hands, as had been promised, but during the short window thereafter, when NBC was still offering Conan some sort of a concession prize. This executive, who had worked with Conan for years, was advising his friend to take the network offer rather than leave in some angry blaze of glory. This executive's point was that NBC would always be NBC, and that they were going to come out the other side unscathed no matter what Conan did or how much public outcry he engendered. This executive conceded that Conan had been treated unfairly and would earn this kind of folk hero support, which he was already building at the time, but the executive further said this large scale, headline-grabbing goodwill would be unsustainable, and that Conan would ultimately lose.
I'm paraphrasing all this, but I remember the whole thing as not coming across in a gross, "we are your corporate overlords" way, but just in the manner of a friend speaking the gospel to another friend about a vast enterprise with a deep bench. He was telling Conan that all of the people who worked at NBC—himself, the late night host, and everyone else—were just players on a much bigger stage, and that the stage existed well before them all and would exist long after. It wasn't to dehumanize or dispirit the talented late night host, but rather to give him fair warning about a familiar script he'd seen play out before.
And this scenario is pretty much what came to pass. While Conan—who, I should say, I adore and who was my late night crush of the nineties—has gone on to his own success on TBS, NBC largely weathered the Tonight Show storm. Jimmy Fallon is rocking it in the ratings and with the critics. Newer fans, like my thirteen-year-old nephew who is downright enamored with Fallon, don't even realize that Conan ever hosted this show, much less that he hosted an NBC show for sixteen years before that. NBC has pretty much erased this long history, at least for the time being. While Conan's much ballyhooed exit is well documented in books and documentaries and interviews, it's now more of an interesting historical record than it is anything that will continue to hurt NBC. NBC remains bigger than any of its parts, missteps, or protestors.
Which brings me to Kim Davis. And Baronelle Stutzman. And that baker from Oregon. And the myriad other photographers and innkeepers and shop owners who the far-right has held up as martyrs for being defiant in the face of the law. These are all examples of people who glommed on to their "folk hero" status, sold to them by opportunistic activists and ridiculously agenda-driven "legal" outfits, and who seem to think that they will win if they keep on long enough.
But they never win. Every time any of these defiant individuals have gone to court, they have lost. Kim Davis is now sitting in a jail cell, while others have seen massive fines levied again them. They. Never. Win. They have to comply with nondiscrimination laws or alter their business. Their offices ultimately have to marry same-sex couples. They have to find new work if they can't operate within the parameters of law. Etcetera, and so on. This, even though groups like the Alliance Defending Freedom and the comparably more ghoulish Liberty Counsel promise them the world (to say nothing of the afterlife).
Sure, they get all kinds of acclaim from conserve-twitter and Fox News. And yes, some of them have hauled in some cash. But okay, whatever; that's not sustainable. Maybe they pay off some of the fines, but what good is that when you've forever connected your name to discrimination? And in many of these cases, I'm skeptical of how much the payday really ended up being. Even if it is, the fleeting burst of whatever does nothing to change the outcome when it comes to their business practices, the law, or the right-side-of-history's prevalence.
They don't win because the Constitution is bigger than them. They don't win because the truth ultimately wins out. They don't win because, try as they might, the destruction of the wall between church and state is not something that can buy with their insubordination. They don't win because are just human beings pining for the feel-good fifteen minutes and all that comes with it, while the network of carefully shaped, ably argued, duly contested, fairly enacted policies that they are challenging are in place for right and rational reasons that are far more important than the latest news cycle.
And what's truly ironic is that these anti-gay martyr stories, which pop up about every other month these days, are always built around the premise that the individual in the spotlight is serving a larger being. They pretend that the whole thing is about God and faith and eternity, not the individual. But every time—every. single. time.—they lose sight of the fact that there is, indeed, a mortal force here on the ground that is, in fact, bigger and stronger than them. They get so caught up in the whole charade that they seem to forget that they are earthlings who exist in a country with certain guidelines that have standards of challenge higher than simple stubbornness. They seem to forget that even if they believe they get to win in heaven, there is still a game that we all must play in our heart-thumping, blood-pumping years. They seem blind to the fact that their side never wins these rounds.
But lose they do. And long after they lose in court, after people stop hashtagging them, after Hannity bookers quit calling them, and after whatever cash streams they found in the exciting world of selling martyrdom on the conservative plain eventually dry up, the rule of law will remain the rule of law. It is bigger than them. It will weather whatever limited storms their bad facts and faith-driven truculence spiral-clouded its way. Even if some of these more high-profile cases become a record for historical study, they will not be the basis for anything that can continue to hurt LGBT people.