So here’s one from your straight ally, a married mother of two in Southern California. It was two days before the Obama/Prop 8 election in Nov 2008. I had reminded my kids (11 and 13 years old) that I would be taking election day off to continue the GOTV (get out the vote) work we had been doing all year long, and asked if they wanted to join me. My daughter quickly agreed but my son was unsure. “I have perfect attendance mom. I’m not sure I want to mess that up.” (This is a kid who lays out his clothes the night before school and organizes his closet for fun.) “Okay,” I said. “It’s up to you and you can always go out and hold signs with us on the corner after school.” (Obama was looking solid in CA, but Prop 8 was clearly a threat.) We left it at that.
Monday afternoon he comes home from school and exclaims, “Mom, you wouldn’t believe the load of crap they were saying about Prop 8 at school today! I am totally going with you!” I asked him to explain and he recounted the litany of distortions we’re all too familiar with (or perhaps you’re not if you did not follow the Prop 8 campaign closely). Basically, classmates repeated to him the lies they were told by their parents (and pastors?) about boys and girls sharing the same restrooms and, my favorite, people being able to marry “animals and objects” if Prop 8 does not pass. Did I mention that there’s a Mormon ward around the corner from our house?
Anyway, Travis was fired up, and we spent the next day standing in the rainy November drizzle with No on Prop 8 and Yes We Can Obama signs. My mom, dad and aunt joined us. My 92-year-old grandmother stayed dry and worked the phones using the Obama website. I’m sure we all felt the same bittersweet emotion that night when Obama won by a landslide and Prop 8 passed by a whisker.
Now, flash-forward two years. I was leaving work and stopped to talk to a EQCA (Equality California) canvasser who was working the sidewalk between my office and my car. I stopped to talk to Darius, a gorgeous gay man with eye-makeup I envied and a smile to light up the world. I signed his petition to reverse Prop 8 and made an additional donation. I shared with him the story of Travis and “the load of crap,” and he asked how it was that I came to care so deeply about the issue. I thought for a moment. I’m straight. I don’t knowingly have anyone gay or lesbian in my family, so perhaps the “obvious” reasons are ruled out. But wait, the real “obvious” reason is my basic humanity.
“This is the civil rights issue of our times,” I said. “How could I not care about this issue?”
We hugged and I proceeded on my way.
A few days later, there he was again. Darius came running over.
“I was hoping I would see you,” he said.
Darius shared with me that he’s relayed my story to some of his cohorts back at the EQCA office and the group had been moved. So much so that it got one of his friends to come out to his mom on Mother’s Day. “He told me that the story of one mother caring about the rights of other people’s LGBT sons and daughters got him realizing that he’d ask his mom to do the same for him.” Darius told me that his pal even shared the story of me, Travis, my mom, dad and grandmother all carrying the flame so that other people could live in peace to love who they want. The encounter ended with the mom in tears saying, “I will do that for you.”
So we never know the ripples we set in motion when we do the right thing, and we have Travis to thank for knowing a “load of crap” when he sees it.