Damn it, I didn't want to be sad yesterday.
As soon as the election was called for Barack Obama, I raced to the shores of Austin's Lady Bird Johnson Lake to join a jubilant group of friends and strangers. We banged on drums and pots and pans, danced around, and shouted with joy. We hugged and said, "I can't believe it." We stood in a circle and shared our hopes and dreams for the future of our nation. I have never felt so much a part of my country.
So how is it that I woke up this morning feeling like a lead weight was resting on my chest? Why is it that people are still celebrating all around me, but now I feel set apart, as though I'm watching the festivities through bulletproof glass?
It's Prop 8, of course, but I don't want it to be. Although my wife and I were married in California last June, and in spite of the fact that so many people have poured (and are still pouring) their hearts into defeating Prop 8, I really don't want to care about it this much. And I realize I've been trying to shelter my heart from the potential blow for a while now.
For weeks I've been telling myself that electing an African American president who pledges to end the war and make health care accessible is more significant than a few last-gasp anti-gay ballot measures. Today, as I've dragged my gloomy countenance around town, friends have been eager to assure me that the losses in California, Arizona, Arkansas, and Florida are just temporary setbacks in the momentum of full equality for LGBT Americans.
And I believe all of those things, really, I do.
But I'm always shocked by how personal it feels when one of these ballot measures passes. It's like a big, fat rejection. I know their supporters don't know me and my family. I understand that lots of voters were victims of well-funded and coordinated campaigns of misinformation. But it still sucks when my civil rights can be subjected to a vote and a majority of folks - even a tiny majority - get to decide that I don't deserve what they have.
But what hurts even more is feeling set apart by my experience of the election. Although I've experienced lots of empathy and concern from straight friends, I'm sick of the liberal progressives who ask me, "by the way, what happened in California?" because they haven't even bothered to follow it. When I told one straight acquaintance about the losses in Arizona, Florida, and Arkansas, she said, "oh, well, that's just Arkansas." Pardon me if, as a queer parent who lives in Texas, I don't feel quite so cavalier.
Ironically, on the day when the U.S. is celebrating our first black president, my mind keeps returning to W.E.B. DuBois's The Souls of Black Folk. Across a gulf of race and history, my identification with DuBois's notion of double consciousness feels like a lifeline - a thread of American tradition that reflects my experience.
One ever feels this twoness,--an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideas in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.