The world is a much brighter place for me right now than it was even a week ago. All of the tension I’ve been holding about the uncertainty of the future might finally have a chance to dissipate. There are two reasons for this, one personal and one shared:
1) I’m moved! Moving really is possibly my least favorite thing to do in the entire world. I just hate it. But I managed to get the packing done in time, and my friends showed up and carried and smiled and laughed and made the day itself a pleasure, and since Sunday I’ve been giving myself a break and slowly settling into my new place. Now that I’ve had a chance to recover a bit from draining myself so dry, and don’t have to spend every spare moment packing, I’m determined to follow the news more closely and blog more often. Also to put more time and care into my close friendships
2) President-Elect Barack Obama!! I can’t express how surprised I am that the democratic process actually worked (I was convinced this election would be stolen), and how thrilled at the idea of a regime change. The state of the world has been wearing on us all, I think. And while I don’t expect it all to turn around in an instant — and don’t even get me started on how this election is not the death knell of racism – I admit that I’m inspired and full of hope. The majority of voting Americans voted for a black man. A man who is, while not perfect, maybe as liberal as could possibly elected. A man who might be able to inspire people to do the things that must be done. Now I’m hoping that it’s not too late — for the economy, for the environment, for foreign relations — but I know that at least we will not be sitting back and watching the world go to hell, doing nothing and patting ourselves on the back for it.
As far as queer issues go, this election was not nearly so awesome. Obama himself seems fairly positive on LGBT issues, but has basically not mentioned us, and spoke out against Prop. 8 but has also said that he’s not for legalizing gay marriage. And Prop. 8 has almost certainly passed, and similar measures in Arizona and Florida have certainly passed. Which is disheartening, particularly in California, where it’s a definite step backward rather than a failure to step forward. (More on why I don’t prioritize same-sex marriage in another post, but if it’s going to be on the ballot I’d at least like it to pass. People voting against it is still bigoted and infuriating even if I think it’s a poor use of our community’s energy and resources.) Arkansas’s ban on unmarried couples adopting passed, and is horrendous, and clearly aimed at keeping queers from raising poor, innocent, impressionable children. Because it would be so much better for those children to grow up in orphanages! Finding enough foster homes is enough of a hardship without going around disqualifying people for ridiculous, hateful reasons that have nothing to do with children’s actual wellbeing. Ballot propositions on abortion went well, but as far as queer issues go, not a banner election.
But Girlfriend, Esq. pointed me in the direction of Kate Brown, today’s official Bisexual Politician Of The Day. She was just elected Oregon’s secretary of state (the second highest-ranking elected official in the state of Oregon), which makes her the first LGBT secretary of state in the country. Even before Tuesday’s election, as the Senate majority leader in Oregon (a post she’s held since 2004) she was the highest-ranked out bisexual elected official in the United States, and Oregon’s first female Senate majority leader. And she’s used that position to do all sorts of great things: she was involved in passing a domestic partnership bill, and the Bay Area Reporter quotes the Oregonian as also crediting her with pushing through “civil rights legislation for gays and lesbians, stronger ethics laws, solid budgets for schools and universities, and health care reform, including insurance coverage for contraceptives.” That’s, um, pretty awesome.
Of course, while I was googling her I came across this nonsense from Just Out, which suggests that none of that is as important as the fact that Ms. Brown is partnered with a man and no longer has short, dykey hair. Because whether she looks and acts like their conception of a queer woman is so much more important than whether she openly identifies as one. And hey, she may do a lot of LGBT advocacy, but any gay-friendly straight person could do that! (Yes, they said that.)
I’m infuriated. It would be one thing if Just Out was criticizing Ms. Brown for hiding her identity, or not fighting on behalf of the community when she’s in a position to do so, or anything like that. But they’re suggesting that all of that isn’t good enough, and if she wants to represent the community she needs to (I am not making this up) “please just butch it up a bit.” What is she doing representing herself as the bisexual candidate and taking money from LGBT donors if she’s not going to dress and act like a big ol’ dyke? That would help queer people identify with her so they’d want to vote for her. ‘Cause no queer women can identify with someone who chooses to have long hair. Would one little drag show really hurt her?
I’m offended by this as a bisexual and as a femme. I’ve spent enough time thinking I’m not good enough or queer enough because I don’t have the right haircut, I’m over hearing other people given grief over it. Come to think of it, I’m outraged as a woman as well; I can’t imagine a gay man being told to be a bit more nelly to get community support, and I think that’s all about a demonization of femininity and failure to take it seriously. And as far as getting on her case for having a husband and kids, when will people would stop questioning bisexuals for our partners’ genders when choosing those partners is totally consistent with the identity we’ve claimed all along? From what I can tell, they’re also taking out of context her statement about hoping her sexuality won’t be an issue in the campaign — from a longer quote (in the same Bay Area Reporter article) it seems she was hoping her opposition wouldn’t stoop to smearing her for it, which strikes me as a totally reasonable hope. I was already going to email Kate Brown to congratulate her on her victory, and let her know how awesome I think she is. Maybe while I’m at it I’ll leave a comment or email the man who wrote the article (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let him know how offensive I find it that they’re judging a bisexual politician on her haircut and the gender of her partner rather than her openness about her sexuality, the ways she’s used her power as a state Senator, and her advocacy for the community.
I, for one, am proud to have Kate Brown representing bisexuality. No matter how she dresses.