Tuesday, April 18, 2006

field trip

Tonight my Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and the Law class (let's just call it Queer Law, shall we?) went on a field trip to a "town hall" meeting about marriage equality run by the HRC gestapo. I'm sorry, I know the HRC has done some great stuff and without the HRC I probably wouldn't have had the joy of getting married on the sidewalk in March of 2004, but HRC has it's downside. (HRC, for those of you who don't know, is the Human Rights Campaign -- a queer advocacy group -- although I'm sure they'd blanche at the word "queer" and that's just the beginning of why I don't like them.)

My experience of the HRC is that they're a bunch of goose-stepping, conservative, white, middle-class, abercrombie and fitch assimilationists who are fighting hard core for the right of every homo in the nation to be a yuppie. They originally drew my ire when they specifically excluded transgendered people from their umbrella of advocacy in the '90s and they've done nothing to win my heart since. Fighting the good fight from the political center is, I know, a useful strategy. But if I'm gonna align myself with anybody politically, it's not going to be the HRC. Not to mention, their obsession w/ plastering their blue and yellow equality stickers all over you and everything else is creepily cult-like, in my opinion.

So, as soon as I walked into this town hall meeting and saw all the HRC propoganda, I felt like I'd just walked into a scientology informational session or something and I told the guy w/ the clipboard that, no, I did not want to "make HRC aware" of me (his creepy words) and then he regarded me with suspicion. I guess he thought I was probably some jesus freak there to whip out a bible and condemn the homos or something. Whatever. A jesus freak cleverly disguised as a big dyke.

We listened to a panel of voices instrumental in the "marriage equality" movement (sounds nicer than "same sex marriage" I guess): a representative from the HRC, of course; Roey Thorpe, the head of Oregon's queer advocacy group Basic Rights Oregon; another woman who is the plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the state's treatment of same-sex couples who choose to begin families; and another guy who is a Reverend in some Buddhist Church (Buddhist Church just seems weird, but what do I know -- I follow the Shambhala lineage and we don't call them churches...) -- he didn't have anything too interesting to say and he was wearing a suit. I'm always disappointed when I see Buddhists in suits. But that's just me.

The speakers were interesting, but I found myself staring out the window at the newly green trees in the distance for most of the night. Then I felt bad when Roey Thorpe reminded us that, while we tend to think nostalgically about the civil rights movement as though it was a discrete event that happened in the past, we are currently in the middle of a civil rights movement ourselves. Right now. I realized I haven't done enough. Yet, I'm staring out the window feeling jaded about marriage because my own marriage ended (in every sense) and instead of sinking my teeth into this homegrown civil rights movement, I'm wistfully eyeing possible emmigration to Australia or the UK, literally broadening my horizons, for personal but also political reasons. Escapism? I don't know. Don't we all need an ex-patriot period? Just to be well-rounded humans?

I had one realization tonight that surprised me: I realized tonight that I really am a buddhist. I've got such a love-hate relationship w/ labels and, for a variety of reasons, I have resisted labeling myself a buddhist (or anything else like that), even though I've studied it for years, I believe in its tenets and I've been practicing with an actual sangha for awhile. But tonight, when the Buddhist Reverend guy was talking, even though he was a big dork in a suit, and even though he said "sexual preference" instead of "orientation," a distinction that is maybe only meaningless to straight people -- even though a lot of him didn't resonate, I recognized in him a like-mindedness and a sense of the community, the sangha, that felt so comfortable and so familiar. When he said "Buddhists believe that all living creatures deserve respect," I actually got misty! I got tears in my eyes! I felt that feeling of belonging that was almost as big as the feeling of belonging that came from listening to a panel full of lesbians talk. And I thought that, even though buddhism doesn't completely encompass all I feel and believe spiritually, it doesn't matter. Because I can be buddhist and other things at the same time. That's the beauty of buddhism. And I love it.


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