Sunday, November 09, 2008

Cute Approachable Gay Couple pt. 2

Though I've written about it before, AJ and I are still being pegged as the cute approachable gay couple. This has it's ups and downs. Usually we don't mind it when random tourists come up to us and ask for directions. AJ and I can see their thought bubbles above their head "Oh my gosh! We're lost in the big city of San Francisco! Wait, there's a cute approachable gay couple! That's SO San Francisco! Look they are walking hand-in-hand! They don't do that back in Boise/Des Moine/Topeka/Little Rock! Let's ask them for directions! Then we can go back to our hometown and tell them that we interacted with the gays! Plus they are unlikely to mug us!"

Sometimes it's slightly annoying. Like the time AJ and I went to a wedding and the entire evening a woman became slightly obsessed with us, and followed us around the entire night. It was near the end of the event, when we were talking to acquaintances of mutual friends that the inevitable "We Are Family" came on. The woman (who we had finally shaken off) comes bounding up to us and yells "Why aren't you guys on the dance floor?!?!?" and then proceeds to drag us off to dance with her.

We're gay. But we don't have to fall into EVERY cliché.

AJ and I went to visit our friends Felisa and Chris and to see their new baby this weekend. Lily (who is utterly adorable) was born a week ago, and Chris' sister and parent's were visiting. Apparently Chris and Felisa had told his sister stories about us (no doubt "cute approachable gay couple" stories) and wanted her to met us.

It's rare that we actually go to Felisa and Chris' house. They have a cat and AJ is utterly completely allergic to cats. When he was in high school he went to an allergist and the allergist did the usual pricks of allergens on his back. When they did the "cat dander" one the doctor - who had been an allergist for over 25 years - yelped out loud "Oh. My. God. I have never seen a welt that big in MY LIFE!" Apparently the welt was so big that it encrouched on the two pricks next to it.

Needless to say he avoids cats and avoids hugging people who own cats.

Nevertheless this was a chance to see Lily (did I mention the utter adorableness?) and to meet Chris' sister and his parents.

So AJ drugged himself up with mutiple nasal decongestants and we arrived, ready to take off at the first moment of sneezing or eye itching.

After hanging out for a little bit and watching Lily sleep peacefully in AJ's arms, the whole group (parent's sister, friends and family) opted to take leave and go to a crepe shop in the Haight Ashbury area. It was on the walk there from their home that AJ and I got approached yet again.

"Hi. Can I ask you guys a questions?" said the guy on the street corner of Haight and Ashbury. AJ and I were wary of him at first. Whenever people approach us with the questions "Can I ask you a question" the immediately visceral reaction in San Francisco is to say "No. Sorry. We don't have any money...."

But the guy seemed relatively well dressed. Articulate. Didn't smell. Relatively young, and his clothes looked like they had been washed recently. In short - he had none of the signifiers of a homeless person panhandling.

Our long pause was enough to tell the guy that he could continue. "Um. Obviously you guys are gay..." he gestured to our hand holding. "So...Um. How do you guys feel about Christians and their attitudes toward you guys?"

AJ and I looked at each other, unsure how to answer. We had walked ahead of our friends, but we weren't sure if we had enough time to properly explain the mixed feelings that we both have toward the church, especially after the election.

AJ spoke first "Well, some Christians have been really supportive of us, and other not so much. It really depends..."

The guy nodded and continued. "Well, I'm here on a mission from my home church in Menlo Park. Some of the people in our congregation have been very supportive of gays and Proposition 8 and others haven't really been so much...."

The guy seemed to be getting much more nervous at this point. At which point, AJ point blank asks him. "Well, how did YOU vote?"

The guy fidgeted.

"Um. Well...I have to be honest. I voted" he mumbled something unintelligent. The guy shifted his feet and looked extremely uncomfortable at this point.

"Wait. Let me get this correct. Did you vote Yes on Proposition 8 or No On Proposition 8?" AJ enunciated pointedly.

"I voted Yes on Prop 8." the guy admitted.

It was at this point that all time froze for me. Had I been in the movie The Matrix, the cool but very outdated special effects of "bullet time" would have been enabled and the camera would have spun 360 degrees around me as I tried to process that information that there was a guy standing right before me telling me that he had voted to take AJ and my rights away.

A guy that, for whatever his reasons, decided that it was okay to approach AJ and I out of the blue and talk to us. Because, hey, we're the cute approachable gay couple right? What harm could we be?

A guy, who was on a mission for his church... a chuch in Menlo Park. Why the heck was he in San Francisco? From Menlo Park? What the heck? What was he trying to do? What was he trying to achieve?

So many responses came to mind. I wanted to yell out loud "Wait. You voted YES ON PROP 8??!?!?!" as loud as I the middle of the Haight Ashbury. The historical center of the hippie movement. The center of the left wing radical socialist movement. The middle of San Francisco. My adopted home town. I wanted everyone around us to know that we had a bigot standing right here in front of us.

I wanted to tell him that he took away our right to marry. I wanted to tell him that he personally told 18,000 couples that their families weren't legitimate. I wanted to grab the next female that walked down the street and say "Hey. Wanna get married? Because right now, because of this man, and people like him, I can marry you, even though I don't even know you. But my partner here, of NINE YEARS. I can't marry him. This man took my rights away. So lets you and I go and get married because that will make him and others like him happy!"

I wanted to tell him that he destroyed the dreams of thousands of people including AJ and I.

I wanted to tell him that no one should have their rights taken away. That civil rights are not something that should be put up to vote. That the church, and every single person who attends that church is allowed to have their opinion, but seperation of church and state is in our U.S. constitution, and the legal marriages in California are LEGAL MARRIAGES... not christian or religious marriages. And they can keep their spiritual and their social marriages, but all we are asking for is our legal marriages. Our legal rights. Our civil rights.

I wanted to call him a bigot. I wanted to say, "You may not think you are...but no one wants to be called a bigot or a racist or a misogynist. The KKK don't even like to call themselves racists. But that does not change the fact that they are racists. And it doesn't change the fact that you are BIGOT."

I wanted tell him the many stories of friends, who married after 10 years, or 15 years, or 25 years of being together and all of them don't know what to make of their legal union now. I wanted to tell them the story of a couple that we knew that got married for the FOURTH TIME. The first time they got married in a commitment ceremony. The second time when they legalized domestic partners. The third time when San Francisco allowed marriages in 2004. And the fourth time (which they thought would be the final time) when it was finally legal in California as per the Supreme Court of California ruling it a constitutional civil right.

I wanted to tell them that I didn't want to have to attend ANOTHER wedding of theirs. Because four is enough. ONCE should be enough. But no they had to marry FOUR TIMES. Now they'll most likely have to explain to their adopted daughter why they will have to get married ONE MORE TIME....

Because no matter what the outcome of the court cases that are pending on Prop 8, there will be a day when marriage will be legal for same-sex couples. I know that. My friends and family know that. Arnold Schwarzenneger and Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein and Nancy Pelosi knows that. Heck even BARACK OBAMA said that exact sentiment, that one day same-sex marriage will be legal.

We all know that. It's just a matter of time. And we all thought this was the time. Which is why it's so much harder. Because we had that right. We had the civil right. And it was taken away. By people like this fidgeting man. Standing right in front of us. Looking at us.

So many things went through my head in so short of time. And before I could say a single word, before the magical Matrix special effects bullet time ends, AJ says out loud to the man..."I can't talk to you. You are a hater. I can't talk to you."

And we walk on.

We went to the crepehouse. As I walked into the door, I turned around and saw the guy walking behind us with his friends from his church. On their mission from Menlo Park.

And I know that they were talking to him. I know they told him "Don't worry. You tried. You really tried. It's not your fault. We'll pray for them." I know that's what they told the guy that approached us.

And when our eyes met, before I turned to enter the restaurant, I knew he knew. He knew that it was his fault. Him and people like him took away our rights. He knew that was wrong. He knew that he made a mistake.

And so, while his friends pray for AJ and I, I'll pray for him. I'll pray that he'll learn from his mistakes. I'll pray that he'll know the hurt that he caused. And I'll pray that he'll be able to forgive himself when he realizes the truth. Because right now I can't forgive him. Maybe later. Maybe with some time. But right now I can't.

Or maybe that's what I wanted to see in his eyes. Maybe he didn't know. If so, perhaps one day our paths will cross again. And on that day, when the wound isn't so raw, when the defeat wasn't so fresh in our minds, AJ and I could have a civil conversation with him and explain in a logical way, why what he did was wrong. Maybe. But not right now. And definitely not right then. On the street corner, with our friend right behind us.

Our friends asked what happened. They hadn't caught up to us to hear any of it, and we told them about the exchange. They were incredulous that anyone would approach us like that after voting yes on such a hateful proposition. But I wasn't. Because we're the cute approachable gay couple. And sometimes I wish we weren't.