I've needed to write this since Wednesday morning, but I haven't been in the proper emotional state of mind to do so. I still might not be, and if that's the case, I beg your forgiveness but also your indulgence. Yes, this is political. No, I don't want to stir shit up. Yes, I want your comments. No, I won't delete dissenting viewpoints. Emotion ultimately fuels everything we do, but too much emotion can be as damaging to the body as overfilling the gas tank is to your vehicle. It's taken days to siphon off the excess of what I've felt since that first sinking feeling Tuesday night that Donald Trump would win the White House. Here's what's left: I'm hopeful, and I'm scared. Let's talk about fear.
For those of you who don't know, I'm a white, college-educated, college-town-dwelling lesbian from Indiana. Two years ago in 2014, my state declared same-sex couples had the right to marry. One year ago, the Supreme Court agreed and told the GLBT community to make with the festivities. And while I have only been married to my wife for a little over two years, I first met her in 1995, we began dating in 1996, and came out as a couple to our parents in 1997. This past October I turned forty, which means we've been together for half my life. She is my life. I would give up anything else, including my own life, before I would give her up.
But even in a reasonably-liberal college town, we've not been unscathed by bigotry's claws. I've been harassed on the street by people I don't even know, who don't know me, only that I'm holding hands with another woman. A decade ago, my car was vandalized: tires slashed, windows broken, the word 'Dykes' spray-painted across the hood. In 2003, my immediate supervisor was fired by the owner of the bookstore where I work because of discriminatory harassment based on my sexuality. Despite this, I was not raised to be a victim. Chances are, unless you're a very close friend, you don't know about these things because I had those fights, I dealt with them, I moved on, and chose not to dwell on them.
I have to dwell on them now, because I'm not at all sure when I'll have to have those fights again now that Republicans control the Executive, Legislative, and before long, the Supreme Court. I worry because of this:
That's the "First Amendment Defense Act", a bill introduced to the House of Representatives by a conservative Republican from Idaho in June of 2015. Its sole purpose is to promote discrimination under a banner of religious freedom, by forbidding the government from taking punitive action against any individual who believes that "marriage" is anything other than one man and one woman, or that sexual activity should be confined to heterosexual married couples only, and use that belief to deny services or any other benefit as long as those beliefs are "sincerely held" (as if there's any such thing as a litmus test for 'sincerity' when it comes to issues of law). Furthermore, it provides legal cover for those who choose to discriminate in this way regardless of the consequences to those facing the discrimination. I guess my sincerely held belief that public businesses and services should be open and accommodating to all isn't worth legal protection.
FADA currently has 172 co-sponsors. The sister bill in the Senate, introduced on the same day by a Republican Senator from Utah, has 37 co-sponsors. Both bills have been referred to separate committees and have seen no further action in over a year. That's the good news.
The bad news is Donald Trump has promised to sign FADA into law as soon as it crosses his desk, which means I will have no recourse or access to justice or equality if someone decides their personal religious beliefs overrule my basic humanity. This is not preserving religious freedom, it is giving aid and comfort to those who actively seek to hurt and debase others. Is this a United States of America any of us want? Add at least one, and possibly as many as four, Supreme Court nominations for the new administration, and there's a real chance people like the ones who introduced and co-sponsored these bills will go all-out in rolling back the rights of people like me. I could very well go to bed married and wake up to discover my marriage has been dissolved or rendered legally invalid for the purpose of all the rights it grants us, ranging from the ability to make medical care choices for the other in case one of us is disabled, automatic property transferal in the event of a death, legal exemption from the compulsion to testify against one another in court, to the simple matter of filing our taxes as 'Married, Filing Jointly' instead of 'Single', in all fifty states. (News flash to people who hate gay marriage: you've heard of the 'marriage penalty', right? Yeah, getting married if you don't have kids makes your tax burden go up. Splitting up our marriage means we pay less in taxes, so if you really want to stick it to us, leave our marital rights alone so we can continue our increasing financial support of our public schools.) This is terrifying, and we don't even have children to throw into the mix to complicate things further.
That's why I'm afraid.
But there's another word in the title for this blog post, and that word is Hope.
I derive that hope from the knowledge that Millennials now outnumber Boomers, and on a whole are far more accepting of those who aren't exactly like them.
I derive that hope from the fact that, in 2001, public opinion against same-sex marriage in the US stood at 57%. Today, fifteen years later, opposition to same-sex marriage sits at 35%. Even among Republicans, support has been growing slowly since 2012.
I derive hope from the fact that, in the two years since Jessica and I signed our marriage license in the county clerk's office, we've not faced a single problem of discrimination related to our status as a married couple.
I derive hope from the friends who are already writing letters to their representatives and senators, reminding them that the will of the people doesn't involve hatred of those who aren't exactly alike.
Most of all, I derive hope that Donald Trump did not mean all the things he said and promised, that he will take a more moderate stance, that the man we elected turns out to be more like the Donald Trump who wrote this book in 2000, the registered Democrat, the guy who appeared on Oprah back in 1988 calm, collected, and all business, throwing out reasonable ideas and suggestions for how things might be done differently.
Right now, it's too early to tell. January 20th is still two months away. I wish that hope was all I had. But fear's right there too, gnawing on my insides. I'm terrified of seeing what I've fought to have for so long taken away. I'm terrified for my wife, who is not a fighter, who doesn't get political, who just wants to live her life, and who has no idea how to confront bigotry head-on without breaking down. It's easy for people like her to lose hope...and I'm afraid I don't have enough in my own reserves to keep both of us going if the worst comes to pass.
So that's that. I'm afraid, I'm hopeful, and I know only one of those two can win. I need all of my friends now more than ever. Please don't turn your back on me.