Daughter Spurs Gephardt's Changed View on Gays
I'm not here so much to comment on Gephardt exploiting his daughter's identity position to appeal to a gay constituency. That's politics.
I guess a politician must use what life has given him in order to sell himself.*
I remember the first time I heard that "the personal is political." It was in my Masculinity and Pop Culture class. We were discussing the play of race and sexuality in the identity of the protagonist in Chester Himes' If He Hollers, Let Him Go
. (I highly recommend this novel, by the way. What an honest, gut-wrenching, fresh look at race in America in the 40s. It goes way beyond the obvious "racism is bad" didactic tone of most books that take on this subject.)
One of my peers remarked that the personal is difficult enough to navigate without politics entering into things. I imagine that Chrissy Gephardt knows this truth intimately.
Anyway, here's the thing. We want change. Political change: you know what I mean. Less warmongering, more rights for gays, enforceable environmental laws, campaign finance reform, healthcare, etc. (or whatever. you may want different things. run with me here)
But it's impossible to work the system when we're the vocal minority. There has to be a shift in public consciousness, in the cultural climate before our legislators are going to give a fuck.
I know I've said this before, but listen: last november I was one of two people i knew in my peer group who voted during the mid-term elections.
Do you know how many people I know? (My neighbor Kristen could speak to this, as I always seem to run into someone I know when we're out.) My network of SMU, hipster, emo, Dallasite friends/acquaintances is vast. And no one fucking voted.
Whoa. That wasn't even my point; that just came from nowhere. But I think it's a part of this conversation. Just not sure where it goes.
What I'm really trying to say, if I'll ever get to it is this:
Change occurs on the local level. Through conversations, through reading, in the enactment of relationships between people of differing and similar opinions.
For example. All my interest in acting ethically, lovingly -- my reverence for life in its many forms... so much of this is directly due to my relationship with Brandon. To call him a positive influence is to attach a simple cliche to a 6+ year process that is still under way.
Another one. Mom was afraid of homosexuals. They were all licentious Sodomite child molesters, foppish girly-men who threatened the very structures of family that GOD set into place. And then she met Brandon, over time realized how important he was in my life, began developing a semblance of relationship with him. The change would shock you. She no longer uses hate language when referring to homosexuals. The whole discourse has changed to one of concern (she's worried about his salvation) instead of one of fear, hatred, etc.
Unfortunately I don't have any butch lesbian friends at the moment, and I think Mom has a great deal of fear there. Maybe she'll figure that one out on her own.
But that's what I'm trying to say. It's not macro, folks. It's in the details, the anecdotes -- you boil things down and you end up with people who have emotions and they're not monsters -- they're your daughter's best friend, your grandchild, a character in a poignant novel, etc.
Listen: In order for there to be change on the legislative level, we have to change the cultural climate. Reach in to the hearts of individuals and dig around a while.
I'm reminded of the protest I attended last February. I wasn't really comfortable chanting -- it seemed about as effective as my "no war in iraq" button at stopping the bombs. Bush sure as hell wasn't listening to us. It seemed like an activity that belied the work of a truly passionate activist. Perhaps. But what struck me was the six thousand people with signs they'd taken the time to paint, draw, create. The slogans and witticisms and honesty in crude lettering. And marching, braving the cold. You know, that afternoon took on a certain expectant energy, an excitement. Strange, given our reason for being there. But there was something concrete, amazing in our solidarity. That so many showed up, that there was a sense of "us" in big Texan Republican DFW. The march ended up in a rally at the grassy knoll area, where I participated in and overheard many many conversations. Someone challenged my friend Michael (his sign said "Better Ways to Boost the Economy") -- this someone said, "Well, do you have any ideas?" He didn't. We spent the post-protest lunch/dinner at Sol's Cocina discussing just that. Conversation, thought, challenge, solidarity... these things I took away from that feb 15 experience.
I can't say for sure, but if Gephardt hadn't had a gay daughter, or if she'd managed to stuff the truth about her identity deep in her chest somehow where it wasn't in danger of escaping, he probably wouldn't have changed his mind about this.
And here's the thing. There's politics. I mean, yeah. We have to deal with that, and the ick factor that sometimes accompanies identity politics. But why do we care? Because when you pull the issues closer, take a step forward and peer in, dirty your hands and really touch someone you learn that it's about people.
And that's why this xmas card photo makes me happy. Who cares if they're exploiting Chrissy's sexual identity some; who cares that he changed his mind to a position more like my own. What i'm interested in right now is this proof that these conversations are happening. Behind the smiles, behind the political decision to include Chrissy's partner in this photo to send to friends, family and campaign contributors is a lot of pain. and work. and love.
so often i run into articles and start to blog on them and then stop -- because it seems obvious maybe, or i spend time with you and you've heard me go on and on about change happening on the local level.
but something like this is worth writing down, committing myself to.
i've been sitting on this one for a while. it's damn well time to publish it, so forgive the rambling nature. i suspect i communicated successfully. if not, shoot me an email.
self_deconstructing_text at yahoo.com
*I wish I could remember that gender-neutral pronoun bran was telling me about. I could have written this sentence with a series of him/her himself/herself 's. I thought it interesting that Rorty uses "her" in his prose when referring to a person. I've yet to find gender-neutral language that isn't clumsy. So you get a clumsy footie note instead. Yay.