When the Supreme Court Decision came down in Obergfell, I thought that I would be jumping for joy, ready to go out and party, ready to fly a rainbow flag in the faces of those who said it, A) shouldn’t happen and B) won’t happen. Gay marriage would never happen inside of the United States.
For over thirty years I, and many in the LGBT community as well as their families and friends that supported them, lived with the pressure of a world where two people who very much loved each other couldn’t take their relationship forward and secure their lives in a meaningful way.
But I didn’t party. I didn’t run around screaming with a rainbow flag. I didn’t even have a drink, a toast, to the Human Rights Campaign and my people who immediately set about getting married by the hundreds.
I took a nap.
The pressure that was on me, that had been on me for years since I came out of the closet, suddenly evaporated in a text from my husband that declared, “WE’RE MARRIED”.
See, we drove 15 hours from deep in the heart of Texas (clap, clap) to Des Moines Iowa a year prior to get married.
I had received a little 500 dollar advance for my book, Objects in the Rearview Mirror, and that Saturday evening, at a gas station, I looked at him and said, “Hey, you want to go?” And we did.
I drove all night through Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and finally into Iowa, arriving at a bed and breakfast so tired I was shaking.
My Army training kicked in. I was taking that hill. I was delivering my fiancee to the steps of the courthouse or wherever it was we had to and marrying the crap out of him. 🙂
When, on Monday morning, we stood hand in hand out on the lawn of the Bed and Breakfast and said: “I do.” (The owner had been ordained in that state specifically for the purpose of marrying gay folks) I cried.
After I woke up from my nap, I imagined a world that would soon follow. A world where we wouldn’t call it “Gay Marriage,” it was just plain, ordinary, marriage. The world was moving forward in a positive direction and everything would be fine.
Yet, I had a deep down fear in my gut. Something from our (and by our I mean the World) history that reminded me that one step forward for mankind was often met with a fierce push and a stumble.
Enter Donald Trump.
Since the 2016 Presidential Election a great big, black, shadow has descended over our country. Rumors of Russian involvement in our elections, ongoing Federal Investigations, Vice President Mike Pence and his anti-LGBT record as governor of Indiana, the removal of the thin mask of conservative Evangelical Republicans, and soon thereafter – the deportation of “Illegal Immigrants”, the separation of families, the forced psychopharmacological drugs on children, and according to NBC News reported tonight: Their brief saying that the Civil Rights Law does not ban discrimination over sexual orientation. Of course, the head of the Justice Department is a known racist, sexist, misogynist dinosaur by the name of Jeff Sessions. A relic of Southern Aristocracy, of Slavery, and Jim Crow, and the dehumanizing aspects of a repressive and violent time.
As a writer, as an artist, as a human being, these past two years have been very difficult to say the least. My country doesn’t feel so much like it’s taken a stumble back. It’s more like the shove landed America flat on its ass.
It’s been difficult watching the rise of violence against minorities of all walks of life in our country. From those murdered in Charleston, to those NFL players who being of African American descent kneeling at football games to bring attention to the arbitrary murder of people by rogue policing, to the videos of violence, verbal abuse, and recorded phone calls of white people calling the cops of others because this is their time to shine.
All the things that they wanted to say, do and put out there toward those who are different, whereas in the past the culture of America had kept their mouths shut, now parade boldy into the light of day.
That pressure has returned. Ten fold.
The fear is excruciating.
I am now on benzo’s and Zoloft just to make it through the day without shaking apart, recently diagnosed with a panic disorder, I feel every single minute of every single day.
Yet, I cannot NOT work.
It’s impossible for me.
It’s impossible for me as a queer writer to not do what Nina Simone said we should do and that was to reflect the world around us.
Angela Rye, a CNN commentator, and activist, said something that stuck in my brain since the first time I saw her speak. In this era of ‘wokeness’ the backlash of Donald Trump, you might say, in many different areas in our socio-political culture. She said it wasn’t enough to ‘be woke’ but to ‘work woke’.
She says, “It’s pointless for us to use our talents to understand what’s going on and not apply what we’ve learned to action,”. You can watch her explain it here.
Now, she’s referencing Timesup, Metoo, Black Lives Matter etc. but it makes me think, especially with all this added pressure, that this should be applied everywhere.
It’s not enough to know what the issues are, we have to do something about it.
Recently, I wrote a blog about the way gay men are viewed in a segment of literary fiction called M/M or Male/ Male Romance and received ten kinds of holy hell from people, some of them my friends, most of which aren’t gay – talking about how wrong I was, or how misogynist I was, or whatever they had to use to defend not their writing per se, but the way they depicted gay men in their work.
It amazed me how fast the backlash was. It amazed me, the think pieces people wrote to defend themselves, and either aggressive or passive aggressive messages I received telling me, a gay man, what was up from people who loved to proclaim their ‘wokeness’ and their progressiveness.
It’s also amazing to me that should shit get as bad as it potentially could, “they” aren’t going to care whether those writers are gay, bi, lesbian, trans, straight or otherwise when all hell breaks loose.
They didn’t like the idea that I objected to a subgenre of books that relegates gay people to animals or animal-like behavior such as dogs. Or, that I object to the types of books akin to Holocaust porn, concerning gay people and conversion camps.
I have felt isolated before, I’ve been and have felt cut off before, discriminated against, etc. but after that blog went live – I’ve never really ever felt my minority status that much before. Ever.
I think it’s essential for gay people, black people, any sort of minority to reclaim their power. Artists, it’s essential to use #ownvoices to authenticate the work that you do. I think if there were a time publishers, magazines, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hollywood, to let themselves be flooded by these minorities and their stories – it’s now. It’s time for us artists on the fringes to not just be woke, but to do like Angela said, “…and work woke.”
Tell our stories the way we know they are.