Not nothing, but not enough

I used to have this great therapist. She asked me to name the core beliefs, principles, feelings that I was totally, without a doubt, completely committed to, that meant the most to me, that I was certain of. As sessions went on, she would, fairly frequently, point out when my words, thoughts or actions seemed to be at odds with my commitment to those things. Indeed, some of these things, it turned out, I routinely equivocated about, betrayed, doubted. My point, and I do have one, should be fairly obvious: sooner or later, it doesn’t really matter what you say, it’s what you do, how you are in the world, that shows your true commitment.

And the truth will always come out. It will be especially obvious to those who have a stake in what you say you care about. For example, oh, let’s just say, you tell me you are a “fierce advocate” for GLBT civil rights, a subject that does in fact mean a great deal to me as well. If you are bullshitting me, sooner or later, I’m going to know it.

And I do, and sodo we all, Mr. President:

For civil service employees, domestic partners of federal employees can be added to the long-term care insurance program; supervisors can also be required to allow employees to use their sick leave to take care of domestic partners and non-biological, non-adopted children. For foreign service employees, a number of benefits were identified, including the use of medical facilities at posts abroad, medical evacuation from posts abroad, and inclusion in family size for housing allocations.

Well, it’s not nothing, but it’s not enough, Mr. President.

Not enough to keep me, us, someone, from losing custody of a son we’ve raised and supported since our partner conceived him. Not enough to keep us tens of thousands of non-federal employees from losing a job we’ve worked at for 20 years because of our gender identity is objectionable to the conservatives on the board of directors. Not enough that if something happens to us, our non-resident partner will be deported, even though we live in one of the states that let us get “legally” married. Not enough for us not to worry about whether there’s going to be enough money to cover the legal bills we have to pay to get a little bit of the security straight couples get for nothing.

I shouldn’t have to tell you that civil rights are inherently an all or nothing thing, Mr. President, but here we are. When you tell me you are a fierce advocate, then alternately ignore or compromise that promise, or ask me to keep waiting a few more years, or till your next term, you have my life in your hands. Advocacy is action, not words or promises, or even beliefs.

Every day when I turn onto the campus where I work, I drive past anunremarkable plaque. Most of the college kids rushing past that plaque have never read it. Ironic, since the event it memorializes, the signing of the Higher Education Act of 1965, is the reasonat least half of them are on a college campus. The plaque isn’t important, whether LBJ was a visionary or an opportunistic honky or a bit of both isn’t important. The kids hurrying past on their way to class are. They are in college, they grew up with at least the possibility of going to college, something unheard of for a lot of poor families (including mine) 40 years ago. They grew up with the hope of that opportunity as a real tangible thing in their life.

When youreassure us queers, throw us table scraps, and ask us to hang on for another four, six, eight years, you’re stranding anothergeneration of kids in a place without that kind of hope. The viable opportunity, not just a snowball’s chance in hell, that they’ll be able to be who they are, love who they want to, do what they want for a living, without the extra burdens and dangers that too often come part and parcel with being outside the dominant, yet completely illusory, hetero-normative binary.

Did LBJ pay for the Great Society, FDR for the New Deal? Of course, a staggering mountain of political capital. Democrats are still paying for those things and I’m not talking about money. Change costs and while you’re trying to nickle and dime it on the installment plan, DOMA still stands, DADT still stands, ENDA isn’t fully inclusive.

But what’s that? You say if I get beat up and left on a fence to die, you say you’ve gota little something in the works that will get those motherfuckers this time. And it’s Christmas in June today! You’re going to give some rights to partners of federal employees. Some, not all. Not health insurance, not Social Security benefits, sure, but what should I expect, given that your people threw this together on short notice and all…

But administration officials said the timing of the announcement was intended to help contain the growing furor among gay rights groups. Several gay donors withdrew their sponsorship of the Democratic National Committee fund-raising event next week, where Vice President Joseph R. Biden scheduled to speak.

And so, after all, we still DO have our inalienable privilege of being part of the greatGay ATM, to give you and the DNC our time and money and watch you spend it on staying in office.

Change costs, Mr. President, and so does not having the courage to change.

9 thoughts on “Not nothing, but not enough

  1. Straight up, I wouldn’t blame the GLBT community one damned bit if it deserted the democrats en masse.

  2. Excellent post.
    For myself, sometimes “not enough” seems worse than nothing. I’m sick of their patronization. I’ve not seen much courage from Obama and the Dems…truly disappointing. I don’t even want to watch how they’ll fuck up health care

  3. I agree. “Too much love” i this world doesn’t seem to be our problem. How can people loving one another be a problem?
    I hope you’re wrong about health care, but I’m concerned also.

  4. Wow, basically. Like The Other Sarah says, standing ovation, VT.
    Can you send this to the White House? Will you? Just for shits & giggles, I think the Brits say? Maybe somebody other than an intern might read it.

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