Tuesday was huge for lesbian and gay Americans -- and for any citizen who believes that this country is always moving upward to a more perfect union.
The closest thing we've ever had to a national election involving full citizenship for lesbian and gay Americans went off remarkably, though network and cable media barely recognized it beyond anecdotal reports.
For most of history, gay people have been invisible. Gay men and women have hidden our desire in order to protect ourselves from laws and cultures that forbad our basic instincts. It is awesome and confusing to live in a time when society is figuring out how to treat us as something other than criminals or psychotics, and we're figuring out how to live in the open.
This presidential election has been just as awesome and confusing. For the first time in history, an American presidential candidate came out about his support of us. Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and even Obama in 2008 officially declared that they opposed same-sex marriage. Conventional sentiment was that it was political suicide not to. All of them gave us a wink and a nod, subtle gestures that were supposed to let us know that they were cool but just couldn't actually come out and say that they accepted us.
And that is what gay people live with, an understanding that we can live but must accept humiliations: others saying things are "gay" when they don't like them, mocking our voices and constantly reminding us that our sex lives are somewhat preposterous and disgusting. You can live with and love someone, but you have to call her your roommate in front of Grandma. You can have a ceremony, just not in the family home where all your brothers got married. You can register with the state, but we sure as hell aren't going to call it "marriage." We can exist, but if we shove our gayness in anyone's face, we will be punished.
The subtleties of the indignities we face are tied to the subtlety with which we handle them. A thousand times a day, gay people have the chance to deny their difference to fit in with society. Women and racial minorities are physically distinct. They can't hide their marginalized status. Gays can and do. It is our best defense and our greatest weakness.
Gay people are really bad at getting politically organized, and one of the reasons is that we don't like shoving our gayness in other people's faces. Heterosexuals probably think that last sentence is preposterous: Oh! Those parades full of naked men and dykes on bikes! Rainbow flags and HRC stickers! Gay people can't shut up about being gay! Actually, no. Gays spend most of our lives shutting up about it. It's just that because our status is relatively invisible, we can only make it visible through some kind of action. Holding hands, speaking up, putting on a sticker -- each of these is a little transgression. For gay people, unlike for visible minorities, every fight is a choice.
Every president elected in my lifetime has promised to be president for all Americans, and every president who has done so has for some perceived political necessity turned his back on lesbian and gay citizens when it came time to enact in that pledge.
Until Barack Obama.
We had four debates in October without a single question by any of the journalists or a single statement by any of the candidates on gay rights. Not one question about the Defense of Marriage Act. Nothing about the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell. Nothing about the myriad of family and health care issues that uniquely affect hundreds of thousands if not millions of lesbian and gay citizens.
Yet, Americans reelected a president who delivered on his promise to let gay citizens serve openly in our military. We reelected a president who during the campaign endorsed the right of lesbian and gay families to have the same legal protections their married neighbors enjoy.
Voters in Wisconsin promoted an open lesbian Congresswoman to be the first ever openly gay member of the United States Senate.
And voters in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington shut down the strategy bigots have long depended on to halt the growing recognition of equal protection under the law to lesbian and gay families.
In other news:
- Democrat Margaret Hassan clinched the governorship in New Hampshire, ensuring that marriage equality will be protected. I guess voters decided to "live free."
- Hawaii's anti-gay former governor, Linda Lingle, a Republican, was defeated in her U.S. Senate race by Democratic Rep. Mazie Hirono. Hirono becomes Hawaii's first woman senator, and she is a supporter of LGBT equality.
- In Orlando, former Equality Florida staffer Joe Saunders won a victory over Republican Marco Pena, 55 percent to 44 percent.
Living and teaching on an intensely conservative community, I spent yesterday trying to convince people that the world will not come to an end. LGBT people are not an abomination. Life will continue, gay men and women will continue to exist (like they always have), and the world might be a little better in the next four years and in the future..IF they will just believe that we need to continue moving "FORWARD!"
This post was adapted from several articles from The Huffington Posts-Gay Voices.