Change is here… hopefully!

This should be the happiest moment in many years for all Americans.  

We have just inaugurated a new president.  The air is filled with a spirit of hope and change, and all of that is for the better.  The prospects of a happy and healthy future for America look better than ever, and that has nothing to do with Republican or Democratic politics; but everything to do with a fresh outlook and a new, positive direction for our country.  

But as with every change, there is sure to be resistance.

Naturally, I am seeing resistance from staunch Republicans who think that Barack Obama’s policies are “a lot of talk that will cost us a lot of money.”  They are sure that he will fail, and that America will not step up to the challenge to come together and work for a better future for our country.  And while I respect these people for having their opinions– because they are certainly entitled to them– I wish they would just step back and give Mr. Obama a chance to prove himself before they declare him a failure.

The most frustrating thing about this whole situation is, the same can be said for many of my GLBT brothers and sisters. 

I have spent the past few weeks being a relatively silent observer to the historic events taking place around me.  

When Prop 8 passed in California, I, like many other GLBT people across the country, felt the sting of disappointment.  I wanted to join the protests but couldn’t; yet my feelings on the situation were the same as everyone else’s.  The GLBT community voiced its disappointment with a resounding and unified cry– the likes of which has not been seen since the days of Harvey Milk or the outbreak of AIDS.  It was inspiring and exciting to see.

However, in recent weeks, I get a sense that we as a community are going way too far… to the point where we could be called “The Community Who Cried Wolf.”  

Since that first group of protests, there have been at least 4 other organized protests around the country, including here in Chicago.  Those protests started out with clear goals – one was in protest of the Cinemark theatre CEO, who supported Prop 8; one was demanding that Obama repeal the Defense of Marriage Act– but when the protests actually happened, they were paired with other, much more obscure measures– measures that I had never even heard of.  Instead of unifying our voices to one cause, we began spreading ourselves too thin, and our voices became muddled.  I decided that I would not participate in any of these protests unless they were for clear and completely understandable goals.  

This spirit of anger has also begun to permeate into the support of our new President.  We have grown entirely too gun-shy… too skeptical of every move he makes; and most of the criticism came before he even took the oath of office.  

When friends and acquaintances bemoaned the selection of Rick Warren, pastor of the Saddleback Church, to give the Inaugural invocation; I kept my opinion to myself until I got all the information I could on the selection.  At that point, I decided that his selection was probably not the best move, but the message it sent to people on all sides was a message of inclusion for all- even differing viewpoints.  Later, when Bishop Gene Robinson was selected to give the invocation at this past Sunday’s “We Are One” event, I felt that the gay community’s concerns were alleviated, and we got the reperesentation we needed by our incoming President.

But when the broadcast of the event occurred, and Robinson’s invocation was cut, immediately the community started crying “Foul!” and “Betrayal!”  Granted, I was disappointed that his invocation was cut, but once again our community started laying blame before we got the whole story.  I’m sure protests against HBO and the Inaugural committee are sure to follow.

The point I’m trying to make here is:  We have a new president, with much more progressive ideas and beliefs than our former president.  As his new whitehouse.gov website outlines, he is planning to do more for our community than has ever been done before.  I just wish that our community would give the man and his administration time to find their footing and get the ball rolling before we start condemning him.  Besides, there are much bigger fish for them to fry than our concerns anyway.  They have an economy to rebuild, two wars to manage and hopefully end, and countless wrongs from the past to hopefully right.  Our concerns are just a few of a great many.  Will they all get addressed?  Probably not.  But let’s see where things go before we pass judgment.

Two different weddings, one common perspective

I’ve been to two different weddings in the past month.

One was a traditional wedding: Bride and groom, church, reception, dinner, dancing, etc. etc.

The other was a gay wedding: Groom and groom, non-denominational minister, held outdoors at a museum, reception, dinner, dancing, etc. etc.

Both were decidedly called “weddings.” There were rings and vows. There were promises made to each other and to their families and friends. There was advice from each of the ministers on how to make their love survive in this world.

I attended the gay wedding as a member of the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus. We sang during the ceremony and left afterward. I knew the groom — ok, groom #1– because he used to sing with us. It was held at the Museum of Contemporary Art– a very fancy affair, but with an air of casualness. Both grooms wore modest suits, not tuxes. And the minister was fabulous– a big swath of blonde hair and a bigger personality. The ceremony didn’t mention religion, God or Jesus once. It was purely about love and how true love is a challenge that not only the couple has to face, but all of us. It was completely inspirational and beautiful, without being too over-the-top or in-your-face about anything. Best of all, it was short and sweet. I just wish I got to stay afterward for the big party.

I attended the traditional wedding this past weekend in Michigan. The bride is a co-worker of mine, and I’ve heard so much about her wedding plans (she sat across the hall from me) that I felt like I was co-contributer to her plans. And although it was a far drive for a wedding, I didn’t mind. The ceremony was decidedly more religious, but also short, sweet and to the point. Again the celebrant had words of advice for the couple and his words were quite inspirational. It was a lovely affair overall (though the use of the organ was a little dirge-y for my taste).

The reception, however, was amazing. It was held at a country club, overlooking the grounds in all of their autumnal splendor. The room was beautiful, modestly decorated, and full of people ready to celebrate the big event. And celebrate we did. I actually had fun.

Which brings me to the next point about all of this. When I returned home, I had a chat with someone about my weekend activities and he asked me, “Don’t you feel like you’re being cheated when you go to their weddings?”

I thought about this for a second and said, “No.”

He retorted and said “But… we can’t get married.”

“Yes,” I replied. “I am fully aware of that.” We went back and forth a few times on this, and I then informed him I would be writing a blog post about this soon, so hopefully he’s reading this now.

I am fully aware of the marriage fight being waged on behalf of GLBT people. But that doesn’t stop me from wanting to celebrate with those who choose to marry.

In my eyes, we can celebrate a union any way we wish. If that means getting married in a church– fine, go ahead. Find a church that is open to gay weddings and do it. If that means professing your love in front of family and friends, without a minister or a judge to make it ‘legal,” fine.

How we choose to do it is completely up to us. It would be nice if we could get the same thing as everyone else, but in my eyes, I don’t need the ‘blessing’ of a church or a government seal of approval to celebrate that union.

I realize this goes against popular opinion on both sides of the debate, but that is simply how I feel.

Love is a personal and extremely powerful thing. No certificate; no seal of approval is going to change that feeling.

I do want to state that I believe the fight for marriage equality is worth fighting. But to close ourselves off from the supposed “enemy” (straight couples) in the fight for equality is completely absurd. Straight couples are not the enemy in this war. Refusing to attend a wedding on the simple basis that “because I can’t get married, I can’t celebrate your marriage” is being bull-headed and stupid.

Grow up, people. We’re all in this together. If we can’t be supportive of each other, how can we expect them to be supportive of us?

Naturally, I don’t have anything to lose or gain in this fight at the moment anyway. I don’t have anyone to marry, and I certainly don’t have anyone waiting in the wings.

But if I did, and I found myself ready to commit myself to him for the rest of my life; I would do it… whether or not a church or our government decides it’s legal or “right” to do so. Because in my eyes, it’s right. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s all that matters.