It was a truly glorious weekend in DC. And I’m going to continue to refer to it as a weekend, even though it was five days long and I got home Wednesday afternoon (and I’m writing about it on the eve of another weekend.) Because I can.
Being at the inauguration was a marvelous experience, and one that’s been written about extensively elsewhere. We got lucky as far as travel goes. We slept optimistically late, and ended up getting on the Metro around 9:30. But even with train delays and a long walk on crowded streets to get around the parade route, we manage to get to the Mall (if the foot of the Washington Monument even counts as the Mall) by 11:15. We had a decent view of a Jumbotron (I cannot get over this word!) and could hear even though what we had taken for speakers when we chose our spot were actually lights for the Washington Monument. Within minutes of our arrival thousands of people had piled in behind us, with more coming.
It was an amazing crowd to be in. For one thing, it was probably the biggest crowd I will ever be a part of in my life. Possibly one of the biggest crowds that’s gathered to date, anywhere and for any reason? Instinct says yes, but I have no facts, and we all know how reliable instinct is in the absence of facts. Anyway, everyone was excited and remarkably good-natured. I always assumed that crowds of that size are, by their very nature, moments from turning into a mob or a riot. But this felt nothing like that. It was incredible to be surrounded so closely by so many people sharing the same moment of excitement, awe, and — oh, I hate how every time I use this word these days I feel like a campaign slogan! — hope.
Girlfriend, Esq. and I refrained from booing whenever Bush showed up on the screen, and from turning our backs when Rick Warren was speaking (nor were we wearing rainbows, aside from my ever-present shoelaces. That was more about not having any handy, though). Instead, we spent Bush’s moments on the screen and the entire invocation making out. Because sweet, loving same-gender kisses seemed a pretty clear, and thoroughly enjoyable, way to register my feelings about Warren’s presence. Mmm, peaceful protest.
Later, I remembered reading conservanonsense about how inviting queers to take part in the ceremony and have a place at the new administration’s table would lead to just such disgusting displays of our lifestyle (I’d link, but I have no idea how to find that particular hateful needle again in this electronic haystack). Because we’re sexual deviants who can’t be trusted not to have orgies at important events — and I’m quite sure the author in question would have smiled benignly upon affectionate straight(-appearing) couples, and considered our smooches and loving gazes as obscene as public sex. Which, for the record, I don’t object to but think should generally happen in venues where the people present have consented to the possibility. But anyway, um, so there? I can’t say I’m too chagrined about proving her point. Nor did the people around us seem disgusted or offended. Of course, they were booing Bush; they were probably stealth queers waiting to corrupt our children. The whole lot of of them. All three million, or however many it was.
Other than Warren, and Roberts’ screw-up with the oath, it was a good ceremony. I thought the President’s address struck the right notes, though as always I could do without America As Leader and The Specter of Terrorism. Aretha Franklin was, well…herself, and that’s all we could possibly ask for. And Reverend Lowery’s benediction was so perfect and delightful that I continued not to wonder why all this prayin’ was happening in the first place until I got home. (Seriously, folks, I’m not sure how that one got by me. All my commentary on Warren as a terrible choice and Lowery and Robinson as great choices and I never stopped to wonder why we were choosing religious leaders in the first place and whatever happened to the separation of church and state, anyway. Good thing I have Yasmin Nair at the Bilerico Project to remind me. And then I looked up what Greta Christina had to say about it, because I’ve been reading her blogging on atheism extensively recently, and it’s as brilliant as her blogging on sex and queerness and everything else. Of course, she didn’t disappoint.)
All in all, I’m terribly glad I went. It’s not often that one gets to set out to deliberately watch history being made. Even if I were a lot less optimitic about what the next four years will bring, electing and inaugurating our first Black president is a very huge thing, and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. It’s not the end of racism, really it probably doesn’t change much on a systemic level, but on a symbolic level it’s terribly important. And it’s about bloody time. I also can’t help but have — ack, buzzwords again! — hope for the change this administration could bring. Is already bringing, even in the first few days. I don’t think he’s the Messiah, but things have to get better. They simply have to. I’m bracing myself to be disappointed, and I certainly won’t refrain from criticizing when Obama does things I don’t agree with, but it’s an exciting prospect to have a President who’s intelligent and a good speaker, and whose fundamental values are not so different from my own as to make me wonder if we actually speak the same language.
And anyway, I was already in town for…The Bar Mitzvah Of Coming Out Doom.
OK, that’s melodramatic. Really there was no Doom involved. There wasn’t even much coming out involved, really, though not for lack of trying. Girlfriend, Esq. didn’t end up picking me up from brunch on Sunday after all, because it broke up earlier and more suddenly than I was expecting and so she hadn’t showered and was still across town when I needed to leave and an aunt offered me a ride. So I didn’t get to kiss her hello and introduce her to a few people as my girlfriend before making a quick escape and giving them time to absorb it, which was the strategy I’d decided on. I did manage to mostly not chicken out about mentioning her when it fit into the conversation, though, and I swear no one heard me. I don’t think it can all be chalked up to my aunts and grandmother being the sort of women who use the world “girlfriend” in an entirely different way, either. I talk about Girlfriend, Esq. like a partner, not like a friend. I know I often opt for subtle and expect people to read more between the lines than is reasonable, but I just don’t think that was happening here. It felt like Thanksgiving all over again, me talking about my life and no one responding. Once again, I don’t know if it’s because they already know, they’re too clueless to hear me, they’re willfully ignoring it, or they’re hiding their reaction to keep me from being offended (or, I suppose, really just taking it that in stride.) And hey, maybe they haven’t figured out that I have a romantic partner in the DC area because it would never occur to them that I wouldn’t call and have lunch with my grandmother every time I’m in town, and so it must seem like I see her about every six months. Since I have no idea what’s going on, I have no idea what to try next.
I think I’ll just bring her along to the next family brunch I go to. They have them pretty regularly, I’m sure one will coincide with a weekend I’m in town (and it won’t be someone else’s life cycle event, which I’ll feel better about). I tried to give them a chance to ask me questions and get used to the idea without having to be polite and welcoming to the coming out girlfriend at the same time, and they ignored it. They’re polite and welcoming enough people that I’m not worried about Girfriend, Esq. suffering at their hands, so I think that’s my next step. And hey, if they miss the hand-holding and affectionate glances and general body language of a couple, I can always just do the big coming out announcement. They’re annoying and not how I really conceive of my life or my queerness, but they’re not so awful I couldn’t do it if necessary. Even though I’m sure I’ll feel silly if I stand up and get everyone’s attention to say “I just wanted you all to know that I’m bisexual,” and they all say “Well, yeah, we knew that. Did you think we were totally oblivious?” (Yes!) Anyway, coming out doesn’t require a big announcement to a group. There’s nothing to stop me from saying “You know I’m bisexual, right?” to people on an individual basis and handling it from there.
Oh, and a dispatch from heteronormativeland: apparently I’m getting a little bit long in the tooth. Only one great-aunt asked me when we’d all be getting together again for a wedding, but it was definitely the first time anyone in my family has asked me that. It seems that 25 is the age when people start wondeing when you’re going to find a nice Jewish boy and settle down. And the irony wasn’t lost on me, being asked that on the same visit that I was tryng to figure out how to let them all know that I’m a big ol’ queer. Not necessarily the kind who won’t end up partnered with a man, but still. And regardless of my future partners, I don’t really see myself as the marryin’ type.