Published Thursday, 07-Oct-2010 in issue 1189
Speak up…again and again…and again
I was on the bandstand in LA, just 48 hours before the big 2008 election, thrilled to be singing for yet another gay wedding
I was becoming aware of a strange, new sense of ease in the midst of this uber-straight group of guys, all of whom had, at one point or another, let me know they were unthreatened by the shocking fact that I had “changed teams”. (As if somehow I was now part of the opposition). I whirled around and, with big eyes for emphasis, reminded everyone, “It’s ‘No’ on Prop 8 this Tuesday.”
The Bass player looked up from his tuner, “No, it’s ‘Yes.’”
Now I added the big arms. “No, no, no – we’re voting “No”, I explained, because we’re against it.”
Looking back on how long it took before realizing he knew exactly what he was saying reminds me of how naïve I was.
What followed was a discussion so frank and bold, my ovaries grew two sizes. I’m still proud I “went there” with him that night. And that I found the courage to make it personal; this wasn’t about gay people now, it was about him and me.
“So what you’re saying is, I deserve fewer rights than you.” His polite answer reinforced my fears, “I’m sorry, Danielle.” I had pulled out all my aces, and yet, I failed.
Recently we posted our Prop 8 song, “No More, No Less,” on YouTube
Once again I felt excited, a euphoria of possibility overwhelmed the growing resentment in my brain; I was an activist armed with a new and undeniable tool.
One image after another of LGBT couples, their faces radiant.
“How can anyone deny this?” I asked my amazing rocker partner.
Ever-aware of a stinging inadequacy when trying to enlighten folks to the obvious righteousness of marriage equality, I felt liberated by this video.
Cut down to the most basic images we could find one photo after another of couples and their families. Love, pure and unconvoluted by all the bullshit political arguments, statistics and interpretations of the bible. Just faces, telling the story, proving the point -perfectly.
What a fool I was, jumping up and down in my office, “I dare anyone to watch this and be unaffected.”
A week later, the comment came in. Two tiny words delivered the blow that knocked me off my little pinnacle of presumed victory with an ugly thunk. “Beautiful Propaganda.”
I was shocked. Knots of anger grew into a sea of little fists in my gut. How could I possibly talk sense into a man who could call these images, ‘propaganda’?
Then I thought back to the day I was caught, called out by one of the campaign managers while I delivered the pitch in my best Spanish in the corner of a dark closet, (yes, it’s true), at the No on 8 office. We were instructed in no uncertain terms to just say thank you and hang up if the person who answered spoke Spanish, even if we were bilingual, because the Spanish script hadn’t been approved yet. So I did what I was told, no way- Jose could I do a respectable job without the script, anyway. But the last day of phone calls, when that sweet Mom-voice answered, something snapped and I lost my fear. Suddenly I was willing to do my best, even if it wasn’t good enough.
So I countered Propaganda-man
I wrote back with all the cool, unemotional logic my hot-tempered, Sicilian ass could muster. A few rounds and he was gone.
Once again - failure.
That’s when it became clear, as maddening and humbling as this is, I can’t stop.
I can’t stop because
Asher Brown ended his 13 year old life last month, and so did Seth, and Justin and Tyler and Raymond. Every unimaginable LGBTQ teenage suicide of the past weeks has been yet one more horrific, sickening reminder. These kids feel anything but safe. It’s 2010 and they feel alone, ostracized, shamed and afraid of being different - of being seen as a freak. This is not a should. It is a must.
We must speak up, relentlessly
Tirelessly, especially in the most intimidating and inconvenient company. We must be willing to fail, because all those little failures finally come together into an eventual, hard-won success when a family member finally decides that they wouldn’t have you, or your partner, any other way. We must speak up because this is not political; it is profoundly and urgently – personal.