Several years ago, in another incarnation of this here blog, I posted an image of two elderly ladies who were the downfall of moral society and perhaps all of civilization. They were lesbians, you see. Lesbians, getting married. Not being happy with just an eternity of damnation, they were also intent on bringing us down with them.
I wrote that in jest, of course, because two old ladies exchanging wedding vows is somewhere between rainbows and teddy bears on the threat meter. And it was darling. They'd been partners almost their entire lives and finally realized the dream that nearly no lesbian couple in America had experienced before them: the exchange of wedding vows and the license of a state-sanctioned marriage.
And I now mention with a sadness and an incredible amount of respect that Del Martin passed away yesterday, at the age of 87. Her lawfully married parnter, Phyllis, had this to add:
"Ever since I met Del 55 years ago, I could never imagine a day would come when she wouldn't be by my side," Lyon said in a statement issued by the National Center for Lesbian Rights. "I am so lucky to have known her, loved her and been her partner in all things.
Fifty-five years -- may we all be so lucky. Rest in peace, and thanks for giving 'em hell.
And to turn the topic now, let's move from an activist ending her long slog to a new young fellow whose bestowed titles range from 'freshly-minted gay icon' to 'Olympic champion'. For the first time ever, an out 'n proud gay man won an Olympic gold medal -- not that you would have known that from watching the coverage. With this stunning and essentially perfect dive, Matt Mitcham made Outsports cry and also lash out at NBC for its coverage which neglected to mention that, oh by the way, Mitcham's partner is in the stands and the significance of a out homo winning gold. I wish the kid my best, because like it or not, he's now an international celebrity and a hero to many (just read the first link in this paragraph if you doubt me). It doesn't hurt that he's just adorable, either.
On the one hand, I think it's a compelling story -- absolutely the kind of cutaway material Olympics coverage is known for -- how he walked away from diving, piddled around and did some odd jobs; thanks to his rock and partner, found a renewed interest and desire to compete; won the Olympic gold. I mean, really, that's the kind of stupid storybook stuff they can't make up.
On the other hand, I also think it's totally true that in a reasonable, compassionate society, the headline "Gay person does X" wouldn't be worth mentioning for most values of X. So in an odd way, I kind of appreciated watching the competition and not really having that be the big deal (I totally knew he was gay once I saw him mug for the camera after a dive, but still). At this point in our society's evolution, there's probably room for a little of both.
I look at Rachel Maddow, who's getting her own show on MSNBC here in a couple weeks, and it's like, well yeah, she's a lesbian. But that's not what the hokey pokey is all about, y'know? It's her intellect and insight and wit that make her the compelling show host that she is. But we have to, on some level, laud or understand or appreciate the fact that she's the first out lesbian to be in that position, and yeah, you know, that's pretty damn cool.
I'm getting ready to watch Barack Obama accept the nomination for the presidency, and as much as I wish our country was at a post-race-divisional* level, we so very much are not. Exhibit one: Obama is the first black man to
So like I was saying, in a reasonable, compassionate society, you wouldn't expect to see the headline "Gay person does X" for most values of X. But we don't necessarily live in a reasonable, compassionate society just yet. I live in a state that's supposed to be full of fruits and nuts, and we still deal with shit like this.
You can't tell, but I just took a break to watch Barack Obama's nomination acceptance speech. I'm so stunned by it I don't even care to comment, beyond this: In 2004, I said that in his speech, Barack Obama served notice he would be the first black President of the United States. Today, in his speech, Barack Obama just served notice he will be the next President of the United States. I'm contributing a modest amount to his campaign as a result of the not-exactly-what-I-wanted-to-hear but anything but platitudinal (all right, amazing) speech. I'm also contributing the same amount to the campaign to defeat Prop 8. I hope you'll consider doing the same within your means.
We may not have the reasonable, compassionate society I dream of, but we can get there, with the groundwork established by pioneers past like Washington, Lincoln, Anthony, Dr. King, and of course Del Martin. And more and more we will realize the benefits as a society, of unsuspecting, everyday, regular people who sometimes manage to do extraordinary things and obliterate a tacit barrier like Rosa Parks, Matt Mitcham, or (I guess even) Rachel Maddow. And as we look to extraordinary leaders of all shapes and sized, races and creeds, in an increasingly diverse array which represents the true American Way, I feel only more and more confident. We'll get there, and we'll start by defeating Prop. 8. We're going to have a woman or a black man as chief executive or first officer of this country. And we will reap the benefits from now into the future every time someone achieves a pinnacle that today we would say "the first whatever". By then, "whatever" won't even be in the headline and the whole of society can rejoice.
* - I now live in Alameda County, CA, and the societal integration here is just breathtaking. It does me better than eating Wheaties in the morning, seriously.