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Sunday, October 14, 2012

There is something you can do for me.

There are only 23 days until the election and things are heating up.

I find these days to be incredibly difficult.  I feel like someone has surgically removed the protective bubble we live in and placed us out in the elements where judgement, exclusion, ignorance, intolerance and hatred live.  I want back in the bubble and I want to deadbolt the door.

As much as I am a fighter, strong and able, this was exactly why I wasn't ready for the marriage vote to return to our state.  Of course I want the rights, but I wasn't sure I could handle the fight.

Many of my gay friends are feeling the same way- bruised and worn down at best and depressed and demoralized at worst.

This is why the signs matter.  I've had many people ask me if it really matters to have a sign in their yard.  Does it actually change any opinions?  Haven't most people made up their mind?

First, let me tell you that each time I see a NO on 1 sign, I feel physically ill. 

I think the signs do have some influence over voters. I think that those who haven't entirely decided may see so-and-so's house with a YES sign and perhaps feel if that family is okay with it than maybe it is okay.  But honestly, the real power to the sign is for the gay people.  Seeing the orange sign on a stranger's lawn says:  "I will stand up for your rights and will put myself and my house at risk.  I stand by you."  Because make no mistake, hate crimes and retaliation are alive and well and when people stand up for gay rights, they do so with risk.  When others take that risk and stand beside you in the firing line, it means everything.

I know many gay women (and men) in the 50 and over group who lived for years in the closet with their long term partner- or "roommate"- and even though the world is more open and accepting, they still live with a level of fear of being out and visible.  They still are careful what pronouns they use when discussing their significant other in mixed company. 

I really don't know if people get it that hatred toward gays and fears for one's safety still exists.  Having equal rights means that we are equal in this society, rather than a group to be a scapegoat for people's  hatred.  If you marginalize people, they will be marginalized. 

A mom I know from school and who is new to the area told me that she read my article and she was going to stick her neck out there and put a sign on her lawn "even though no one will see it on my quiet street."  I told her that my gay friend Chris (from this post, near bottom) lived across the street from her and that she would see it each and every day and that that would mean everything to her.

I got this message from Chris that night: "Thanks for encouraging her to put the sign out. You have no idea how much I needed to see that. And, how much I needed to hear this story tonight in this exact moment, and not feel so invisible.

Maya and I are "sign captains" for our area, which means we can get a ton of signs at once and disperse them.  Have you even seen a cuter sign captain?

We have given out/delivered close to 70 signs!!  There are 5 on our street of 20 houses (and sadly one NO sign from people I don't know) and if I could pave the street with them I would.  This is why the signs matter to me:  when I drive up my street and see them all lined up on the lawns of our straight neighbors who know and love us, I feel safe and protected. It is like they are lighting the walkway back into our bubble.  I can leave the scrutiny of the campaign out in the world as I pull into the sanctuary of my driveway. 

If you're not sure if the signs help, let me assure you that they do.

Thank goodness for the bright spots right now.  I have gotten such an outpouring of positive comments over both the blog post and the article.  I have a friend that reminded me how ridiculous the anti-gay people will look 50 years from now, the way the racists that opposed desegregation looked in the 60's.  I have another friend that said this to me: "It seems to me people would be so embarrassed to put out a NO on 1 sign.  It's kind of like putting up a sign that says 'sometimes I like to light my cat on fire' or 'I slept with my cousin but it was only twice.'" 

I have the comfort of a Friday afternoon with my family all at home, the wood stove going, watching the girls put on a lively gymnastics show for Sandi and I in the living room.  No one can touch that.

Twenty three days left.  Can you help?

Here are some things you can do (even if you want to help and you don't live in Maine):

-Get a yard sign (I can help you if you need help or you can go to the Twin City Plaza in Brewer to the Yes on 1 office near H&R Block.  If you aren't local look online for Mainers United for Marriage to get to your local office).

-Donate money to Mainer's United for Marriage.  They need money for TV ads to counteract the lies the opposition is telling on the air (such as the fact that we already have legal rights and now we are just messing with their religions).

-Talk to people.  This one is hard, I know.  I'm the least comfortable with this because of the vulnerable position in puts my heart in.  But as my friend Beth said, "I can't bear to wake up on November 7th and think I could have done more."  Can you talk to 5 people about their position on marriage equality, especially ones that you think might vote no or be persuaded?  Can  you talk to 10? 20?  If you don't live in Maine but know people who do, can you call them? I have decided to openly discuss this with the people we know- our neighbors, acquaintances, school friends.  I'm going to try to be brave and walk up and down my street and discuss this with the people I have lived next to for years. I'm going to be very brave and volunteer at the phone bank today to talk to other parents about this over the phone. I'm scared silly.

Open, one on one, discussion is the most powerful tool we have.  Many people have opened their hearts this way.  Let's not assume everyone we know is open-minded and accepting.  Let's not assume they really know what is at stake for gay couples, gay individuals who are trying to live honest lives out of the closet.  Let's not assume that the lies told by the opposition are understood to be lies by all who hear them.  Let's not assume that because the polls look good that we've got this in the bag. 

If every yes voter could secure 5, 10, 20, 30 more yes votes think of what that would look like piled up like a heap of jelly beans filling a jar.

So stick your heads out there and stick them out far because our heads are on the chopping block (in a matter of speaking) and we need your help.  We need your family's and your friends' help as well. 

In the spirit of sticking up for people, below are two comments from the Bangor Daily on my op-ed that I particularly liked for the arguments they made.  I swear I did not, as promised, read the online comments, but my friend Mary emailed me only the nice ones. 

~"Maine doesn't have civil unions; it has a (third-class) institution called domestic partnership.  However, even a separate second-class institution (civil unions) for second-class citizens is not the same as equality and fairness.  We had separate institutions for "coloreds" under the South's segregation laws -- separate schools, separate passenger train cars, separate seating on buses (in the back), separate bathrooms, separate drinking fountains, etc.  "Separate but equal" laws were declared by the Supreme Court to be "inherently unequal."  When you set up a separate institution from marriage, a second-class institution called civil unions, you are saying that some families aren't good enough to be treated as full citizens, with full access to the same institutions that first-class citizens have.Let's treat all adult couples fairly and equally -- let Ms. Carver marry the adult person she loves."
~"I fail to see how same sex couples wanting to get married is a 'special right.'  Seriously- someone help me understand what is so 'special' about getting to do something that the rest of the American population has always taken for granted and been able to do?  What are people are so afraid of?  Help me understand why two consenting adults; who love and care for one another, who work, who pay taxes, who vote, who follow the laws of this country, who may attend church or synagogue or mosque (or not), who may have children, who may serve and may die in combat for this country, like  ANY other American citizen… still can not get married in most of the states in this country.  Why?  Oh right, I forgot gay people are the same sex….this apparently disqualifies them from being considered full fledged ‘real’ American citizens like their straight counterparts.  REALLY?  

Some say marriage is a  ‘privilege.’   Let's look at the definition of privilege shall we?  Privilege, by definition,  is defined as a ‘special right’ or ‘benefit’ which is enjoyed by an ‘individual or class’ and is ‘exercised to the exclusion or detriment of others.’  Ahhhhh…. this must be those ‘special rights’ the vote NO on 1 people say the gay people want.  Those evil, insidious gay people… next they’ll want the ‘special right’ to vote or to have a driver’s license or pay taxes.  When will it end?
OK so let’s define ‘special rights’ shall we?  Special rights, are defined as: ‘…A term…referring to laws granting rights to one or more groups which are not extended to other groups.’  Oh I get it…so gay people want the ‘privilege’ aka ‘special rights’ of being able to marry; a privilege that clearly is not extended to any other group in this country, thus gay people getting married will undoubtedly be detrimental and exclude any and all other groups from the exact same ‘special rights’ and/or privilege of marriage. Wait what?"

I read this recently and it resonated with me, especially since I spend so much time around children and they love so easily: “The most perplexing thing about hate for me is it’s a conscience choice. You choose to do that. You learn to do that.” ~Judy Shepard, Matthew Shepard's mom

Let's choose love today.  Talk to people about inclusion.  Ask people what they are voting on question one. Share the personal stories of why this matters.  Dispel the myths and lies about how same-sex couples supposedly have all the rights we need.  Encourage people to think about how it would feel to be in love and have the majority tell you your love didn't count and wasn't equal. 

Good luck and thank you. And if you should take a shift at the phone bank, perhaps you should take a bottle of wine with you like I plan to when discussing such issues with total strangers this afternoon.


Anonymous said...

I drove up to visit my grandfather in Guilford yesterday and Route 15 is so ruthlessly lined with "No on 1" signs that I cheered every time I saw a "Yes on 1" sign. One plus that I noticed is that the YES signs are far more noticeable because they're a pretty orange. Perhaps the No signs blend into the background for a reason.

I have a porch that faces a major street in Old Town, and I really want to put a Yes sign in my window. Do you know of a place close to the University where I could get one?



The Finicky Farmer said...

I'm delurking briefly to express my support and encouragement during these damned trying times.

When I was dating my first girlfriend, I was living in Kansas, which was having a similar statewide vote on the so-called sanctity of marriage. Not surprisingly, petty hatefulness prevailed.

And, like you, I was most bothered by all those horrid signs. Even my own brother, for instance, had one plastered on the loft bed in his dormitory. So heartbreaking and enraging and demeaning.

Sending light and love. Hang in there. This, too, shall pass.


AKJenn said...

We have two signs in our yard, and a bumper sticker on each car. We are the only one on our street in Waterville with one, but there aren't any "No" signs at least. We are on a high traffic road that is passed by hundreds of cars a day. I love that without saying a word I am telling every one of them "Yes, Yes, YES!" We will keep talking and working.

With love,
Jenn and Dave

Jenn said...

I just wanted to let you know that you inspired me to volunteer. I have been all for marriage equality for as long as I can remember, but as a straight person I have always hesitated to inject myself politically. Personally, signs have never affected the way that I vote and so I never thought much more of signs than that. After this post, I saw how very wrong I was. The NO signs are absolutely demoralizing and disheartening, and I can't believe it had never occurred to me that seeing a "Yes on 1" sign could have such a strong effect as well. OF COURSE seeing evidence that someone supports you is going to heighten your spirits. So, I went to the local office and picked up a few signs and bumper stickers (our lawns and vehicles are finally properly decorated for the season!). When I was in there, I was asked to volunteer and at first I hesitated. I have kids, work, a busy life... all the lame excuses I use for everything else. And then I thought of this blog and your family, and of all the other people fighting for their civil rights, and I couldn't say no. If I woke up the day after the election and heard terrible news (like I did after the last vote our state had on this issue), I knew I would not be able to look myself in the mirror if I didn't do everything I could. So thank you for writing, for pushing me to do something a little outside of my comfort zone, for encouraging me to stand up for something I believe in, and by association, helping me to teach my kids to do the same.

love is written here said...

Thank you everyone for all you are doing!!

Jenn..I cannot believe that you have stretched so far to see change happen. I am truly inspired by YOU and all that you wrote here. Thank you. From the bottom of my heart.

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