I would like to name some names. From the caption of this photograph in the LA Times, "Bob Knoke, of Mission Viejo, Amanda Stanfield, of Monrovia, Jim Domen, of Yorba Linda, and J.D. Gaddis, of Yorba Linda, celebrate returns for Proposition 8 at an Irvine hotel."
Dear Bob, Amanda, Jim, and J.D.,
How sad it is that you have marred this beautiful, historic election with your unbridled elation at the triumph of bigotry and hate (by however miniscule a margin). Like videos of smug, self-satisfied racists chanting "2-4-6-8, we don't want to integrate," this image of the four of you celebrating the stripping of rights from a minority group will be viewed by the eyes of history with disgust and shame.
All day, we have been hearing incredible stories of the children and grandchildren of former slaves voting for a black man, of people who attended segregated schools and marched with Dr. King seeing a day they never thought would come in their lifetimes, of the kinds of bitter and casual racism in people's day-to-day lives that was soundly rejected by millions of people across this nation yesterday. Well, now I'm going to tell you my story.
I remember sitting in my 11th grade Advanced Placement American History class at Plano East Senior High School in Texas. My teacher (let's call her "Mrs. B") was asked about some of her political beliefs. She wouldn't talk about abortion or the death penalty, saying they were too volatile and that her opinions might upset people in the class. Then, "Ah!" she said, remembering a belief that she was sure would be uncontroversial. "I don't think gay people should be allowed to have children."
I sat there turning red. Only one close friend of mine in the class knew that I lived with my mother and her female partner, who raised me together for most of my childhood. As Mrs. B elaborated on the dysfunction that she surmised would befall the poor children of gays, I shuddered at the idea of being discovered. I desperately wanted to defend my own existence as a successful young person with the very background she was maligning, but I could only do so at my social peril. Despite the fact that most of my friends suspected the truth about my family, I was too afraid to reveal it. The climate was too charged with hatred and fear. I felt so frustrated and ashamed at myself for not being brave enough to tell my teacher the truth. I felt so afraid of the harsh judgment of those around me, especially religious Christians. I felt degraded and dismissed, and I sat there with no recourse, a 16-year-old gnashing her teeth with fear and shame, frustration and self-loathing.
With Prop 8, there has been much talk of "the children." These children are always hypothetical. Well, we're not. We're real, and we exist, and we are AWESOME. We're successful and balanced and productive members of society. And we will raise our children alongside yours, teaching them to be proud of their diverse backgrounds. We will do this so that no child will have to feel humiliated, marginalized, invisible, as I did in my 11th grade history class that day.
The only problem the children of gay people have is bigots like you.
So, back to your legacy, Bob Knoke and Amanda Stanfield and Jim Domen and J.D. Gaddis. On a day when America broke through some of its most painful discriminatory legacies, you stood for bigotry. On a day when the nation defied the expectations of the world, you became justice's worst nightmare. On a day when thousands of children might have been elevated to dignity with the validation of their family bonds, you reduced those children to second-class citizens. While we stood up to believe "Yes we can," you blocked the door to equality and viciously replied, "Actually, no you can't, you gays." (Perhaps you used stronger words than "gays.") But that is no matter. We have heard it all, and we have survived.
My people -- gay people, the families of gay people -- will not be defeated. We will continue to live our lives, build our families, contribute to our society, and live with dignity. You may never be convinced of our equality, but your children or your children's children will be. I hope for the day when you see the error of your ways, but I also know that if that day does not ever come, your ideologies will nonetheless be defeated. I believe that unjust laws must be destroyed, and if you don't, I suggest you read what I read every single January:
Letter from a Birmingham Jail