“I am so so excited about the Supreme Court decision from last week and America’s newfound total marriage equality. I feel a new, unexpected sense of wholeness about myself, my relationship and my future. I know that there is so much more change and activism to be done, but all of the talk about how we haven’t ‘done enough’ is really getting me down. How do we talk about change, but still celebrate this amazing thing?”
- Question submitted by Anonymous
At 10am on Friday, I got a text from my best friend. It just said, “Nationwide.” I quickly opened every social media app on my phone and saw the first few explosions of what I will call The Internet’s Really Really Gay Fireworks, and my heart leapt up into my throat. The government of the country that I lived in had looked Americans in the eye – Americans that include the masses who still haven’t been able to understand or recognize our desire for human equality – and said that, in the land of marriage and all the laws that go along with it, we were recognized, just like them… whether they fucking understood it or not. Having lived in this country for my entire 34 years on the planet, I knew the rarity of such broad, resounding statements of equality.
I excitedly set off my own round of The Internet’s Really Really Gay Fireworks and watched as people reblogged and retweeted and replied with joy. My phone buzzed incessantly with excited messages from friends I hadn’t spoken to in years. My heart, like yours, felt full.
However, another friend of mine sent me a different, and equally important message about halfway through my revelry. She said, “Do you think now that this marriage fight is over we can focus on other things like transwomen being murdered and queer youth homelessness? Or do you think all the normative folks with power will just be placated into thinking its all good now?”
I knew what she was saying. I operate in a world where these realities, though not my own, are at the core of my life’s work. I am not a transwoman and I am not a person of color and I have not faced homelessness or the constant threat of violence as a result of simply existing. Knowing about these issues is different than living these issues, and these struggles are exceptionally real, present, and constant in our country. I knew all of this, I know all of this, and I still felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. I wanted to just… be happy for a moment.
I sat with these feelings for the balance of the day – the same feelings that you (and, I think, many of us) are grappling with, Anonymous. I didn’t know how to reconcile them.
The next day I went into the city to help host an all-ages pride party with the wonderful humans at Autostraddle. My co-host for the day was the incredibly talented and wonderfully amazing Gabby Rivera. We said our hellos and talked about how we would open the party, and I said something like, “I want to acknowledge marriage equality, but I also want to acknowledge the work that we still have to do.” I am pretty sure my face looked exceptionally confused and pained as I said it, and Gabby looked at me, smiled, and laughed the warmest laugh I had ever heard. She told me she, too, had been thinking about this disparity, this conflict, this co-existence of both joy and pain that made up our reality.
She acknowledged that we could and would address the complexity of this reality but said, “I also think that it is important that we allow ourselves a moment to feel joy.”
I needed that permission, Anonymous, and I understand if you need that permission as well.
I think that it is okay for us to allow ourselves joy, despite being in a landscape that is still so full of disparity and strife. Perhaps because of that landscape, it is actually important for us to allow ourselves a feeling, even if just for a moment, of happiness at having a piece of our struggle recognized and respected. Then, after allowing ourselves that moment of joy, we must turn back to the work that is before us. We must allow for others to feel that joy, and then shine a light on the many places where that respect and recognition hasn’t yet been realized.
Nicolette Mason wrote a very important piece listing many of the struggles that need our energy and focus more than ever before, including employment equality, violence against people of color and especially transwomen of color, homelessness, healthcare. Read it, share it with those you love, and continue this fight.
But also allow yourself to feel joy. Those two feelings can, and probably will always, coexist. Your joy doesn’t need to take away from your commitment to full, true equality. I am continuing my fight. I trust you will continue yours as well.
Friday was an historic day, and I feel joyful alongside you.
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