I felt guilty going to my trans group on election night. I could be refreshing my computer screen as the returns come in, or tapping my knee surrounded by people biting their nails, I thought. The fate of the country is at stake and all I can think of is me. When the big one hits, I’ll probably climb over the rubble, hand my apple to a trapped kid, and still make it to therapy on time for the full 50 minutes.
When I arrived at group, the huge TV was on and a few people were sitting on the couches, everyone nervously chatting about the early results. We started late, and as part of check in, we discussed our feelings about news TV breaks or stopping early to watch TV, allowing us to bond over shared election concerns. We never did turn on the TV. Instead we talked about the things we always talk about: our families, our bodies, our friends and co-workers, our trans-identities, and yes, I’m being intentionally vague about our private meeting. The thing that struck me most yesterday was the diversity of our group: pre-transition and post-transition; barely old enough to drink and old enough to qualify for senior citizen discounts; black and white and brown. All of us last in a long line for equal rights, ones that include using a public bathroom without fear. But nobody said that. When we left, we were all way to pumped by Obama’s growing electoral lead.
By the time I arrived at the election party, the wall map had been covered in blue with spots of red, and McCain had already delivered his concession speech. The great thing about watching Obama’s victory speech with gay guys is that they cried, and squealed, “Oh My God, who dressed Michelle? What was she thinking?” I think even a few of the straight men cried; this is San Francisco after all.
I imagine few of us in the room had voted for Obama because of his skin color, what with those issues of wars, the economy, the environment, education, health insurance, evolution, and women’s reproductive rights to consider, or character traits like eloquence, intelligence and leadership skills. But I know we all thought about race now. It was impossible not to listening to the words in his speech. It was impossible not to see it, looking at his face. I had been wholly unprepared for the impact of his win, to see a black man on stage, to envision him in the White House with his family, to transform the words “change” and “hope” from campaign slogans into a presidential symbol of all that is possible, a touchstone for the dream of progress.
The results for Prop 8 were close, but it was no good from the beginning. My friend who had spent the past week in Colorodo campaigning for Obama, occasionally ending up on the phone with a bigot who used the N-word, roamed the party, repeating both prayer and mandate, “We cannot write discrimination into our constitution.” His words moved me more than “unfair and wrong,” more than the commerical images of Japense internment camps that aimed to link all of our mistreatments. Maybe it was my friend’s soft-spoken voice or the word “constitution,” an official state document, but also the foundation, the matter of which we are made, our core, that resonated with me.
At the block party in the Castro, we celebrated one victory, and drank to forget the impending defeat of our other battle. There is no question in my mind that we won the more important of the two, although I tell you, I’m having a hard time looking people in the eye today. As buoyed as I was yesterday by Barack, I’m equally disheartened today, not that people still call me “dyke” as a slur, or that I could be denied employment as a visible trans person, but that in an organized manner, and through a legitimate voting process (or so I think), my fellow people, over 5 million of them, others like me who desire happiness and health and love and connection, wrote discrimination into our shared constitutional body.
I went to trans group last night because I needed to talk about my family. I’m in the process of coming out to them as transgender, which is like coming out to them as gay, with some aspects worse (the situation) and some better (my maturity to deal with the situation). Ten years ago, both of my parents were concerned that life would be harder for me as a lesbian. I recently asked my father what he’d done in the past decade to make the world a better place for gay people, to make my life easier. He got defensive and responded that he doesn’t discriminate. What does it say that to help these days is to not make something worse? Recently, my mother told me that she read her mother’s old yearbook and was shocked that someone had called my grandmother, “a dirty Jew.” I launched into an ineffectual spiel about the current state of gay discrimination. My mother failed or didn’t care to see the connection.
It turned out that going to my group last night was the least self-absorbed thing I could do. In sharing my latest challenges in living in a society that is not set up to accept me, I’m following in the path of thousands before me; I’m walking by the sides of thousands with me; I’m leading the path for thousands to follow. When will we see that there is no line for equal rights and basic human decency? When will we realize we’ve all been fucked in the ass one too many times without the common courtesy of lube?
Will four years change us? I’d like to believe so.