Speaking of Women's Rights: 08/12

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Marriage Matters

by Molly McAllister 

I am one of the fortunate ones.  

Nearly 3 years after I married my high school sweetheart, I realized I was gay.   Driving down a Bainbridge road in my dad’s yellow Cadillac, I broached the subject tentatively.

Me:     “Dad?”  
Dad :  “Yes, honey?” 
Me:     “I have a crush.”  
Dad:    “Oh, honey, what’s his name?” 

[Heavy pause.  My dad’s hand instinctively goes to my knee.]

 Dad:    “Oh, sweetheart, what’s her name?” 

[Deep sigh - Deep relief]

Like I said, I am one of the lucky ones.  I had instant love and support from my family when I realized that I was (and am) gay.  After the champagne cork of my sexuality unhinged itself, I met the woman of my dreams – the tall and talented April.  Nine years later, I am so proud to say that we share a lovely and oh-so-gregarious daughter, Ms. Harper, and have a boy on the way.  We are a family, a loving and happy family, and I couldn’t feel more fortunate.  

About 5 years ago, April and I had a beautiful ceremony on the shores of Lake Union.  We exchanged rings, and wept as my sister and brother-in-law took us through our vows in front of over 200 guests.  Minute by minute, it was the best day of my life.  Aside from our daughter’s birth, I think I can say that my beautiful wife feels the same.

But wife?  She’s not really that, is she?  Not in the eyes of the law, at least.
And that breaks my heart.  She is my wife, and so much more.  She is my heart.  My love.  My big ol’ four-leaf clover.  My reason for waking up, and crawling back into bed at night.  Always.  In sickness and in health until death do us part, you know?  I always said that April was like the icing on my little cake of life.  And that’s exactly how marriage feels to me.  It would feel awfully good to be married to the love of my life, to be seen as equal in the eyes of the law, and to call her “my wife.” 

I can’t imagine a better way to say to the world, ‘Hey, we love each other!’ than getting hitched.  Let’s hope that, someday, we can.

Molly McAllister is a Pride Foundation Parent Ambassador, volunteering her time to share her story in order to change hearts and minds around the freedom to marry.  To get involved email Laurie or visit WhyMarriageMattersWashington.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Grabbing the Gold -- and Silver -- and Bronze

The quadrennial global mass hysteria known as the Summer Olympics ended Sunday, and people everywhere returned to their usual pursuits.  But not before watching the British display some of their idiosyncratic humour and – let’s face it – dorkiness.  And not before watching a truly stupendous array of athletic accomplishments by people from all over the world. 

And especially, by women. Women from everywhere.  For the first time, every country that was present at the Games had women competitors.    Saudi Arabia got the most attention for having two women athletes, but women from many countries face obstacles in their quest for Olympic gold; indeed, in their quest for simple acceptance and support.  Caster Semenya continues to attract controversy: not content with questioning her gender, sports ‘experts’ this year also questioned whether she had actually tried not to win the 800 meters.   Really, people? Who spends their life working toward a goal and then throws it away at the last minute before the world’s biggest audience?  No one I know. Or can imagine.  

Perhaps the most amazing – and yet, somehow not surprising – result in these Olympics was the performance of the U.S. women.  Together, they won more gold medals than all but two countries (China and Great Britain – they tied the latter).  And they won more medals overall than all but China, Russia, and Great Britain.  The U.S. women could be their own country, and would have kicked the butts of most other nations.   Equally impressive, they did it across sports, and in categories typically (but not this time) won by the U.S.  men: e.g., water polo, boxing.  I could go on, but you get the point.

Yet despite the incredible accomplishments of women athletes, sexism persists in the Games, and especially, in the media coverage of athletic endeavors.  Some have called out a few of the worst examples, but these are only the most obvious ones.  Equally  deplorable was the coded (and not so coded) sexist language and so-called “analysis” that pervaded the coverage.  Men are skilled and women are lucky. Women gymnasts were criticized if they didn’t smile all the time; men were “focused” when their faces were somber. Which they were virtually the whole time.   Women who were “unattractive” (by whose standards?) or “fat”  (ditto) were criticized, to put it mildly.  And how shameful is it that one of this country’s best athletes lives in poverty, at least partly because she doesn’t fit some Vogue model of beauty?  Some of them fought back against the idiocy  – you go, Zoe Smith! – but the fact that this is the level of discourse, of “serious sports reporting,” is truly abominable.  And let’s not even get into the weird and arguably racist stories about gymnast Gabby Douglas.  At least one sports reporter even blamed a woman athlete for sexist coverage.  

Mind you, Olympics coverage tends to be  dreadful anyway, at least in the U.S.  The level of jingoism is embarrassing.  We see hundreds of profiles of U.S. athletes, very few of competitors from other countries.  Worse, commentators and those who call themselves “analysts” seemingly cannot help thinking American athletes are superior – physically, morally, mentally, emotionally – to everyone in the world. (Please go away, Dick Button, before the next Winter Olympics.  You might be a nice man, and you were a good skater 60 years ago, but your nationalistic attitude dates to your gold medals.)  Our athletes apparently are robbed by unfair judging, while athletes from other countries do the robbing, and don’t truly personify their sport.  Get over yourselves.

As a lifelong sports fan, I enjoy the Olympics, and this year I was impressed almost beyond words by women from all over the world (and many of the men).  But until we can persuade those who report on the Games, and on all sports, to examine their preconceptions and biases, I’ll be watching with the sound turned off, and doing my laundry during the athlete profiles.  

Photo by the Department for Communities and Local Government. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Power of a Conversation

by Laurie Carlsson

You know what a voter said to me the other night during a phone bank?  “My niece is a lesbian and she’s never once told me that marriage matters to her.”  How often do we take for granted that people know where we stand on things?  We assume that because our neighbors know that we’re a gay or lesbian couple, they must know that being able to get married is important to us.  People tell me “everyone I know is supportive of marriage equality.”  This is statistically impossible.  Recent polling tells us that 30%of King County residents do not support marriage equality.  How many in this 30% might be your neighbors, your coworkers, and possibly even your friends?  

Peters Consulting found an interesting statistic last year:  Only 34% of voters who have never had a conversation about marriage equality support it.  In contrast, 56% of voters who have had a discussion about marriage equality with a straight person support it.  The number is increased to a whopping 69% for voters who have had a discussion about marriage equality with an LGBT person.   The movement toward marriage equality in Washington State is goingto be won through dialogue – conversations with the people in our lives, whether they’re close friends, family, or strangers.  We’ve heard the “journey” story over and over in the past few years, from our Governor, to our President, from State Representatives, to State Senators.  People are moving toward support of marriage equality because of conversations they’re having with the people in their lives.  You know what that means?  That means that you and I and every single proponent of equality has got to speak up and be that person who helps people along their paths toward support of the freedom to marry for all Washingtonians.

Whether you’re part of the LGBT community or a straight ally, your voice is important.  What we’ve found moves people toward support is hearing the stories of others.  Whether it’s the story of a lesbian coworker and her loving partner who deserve to have their relationship recognized, or the story of a straight Catholic ally who wasn’t always so accepting, people need to be able to see themselves in the stories of others.  

As part of the Pride Foundation “Hearts and Minds” campaign – an effort to support those who want to reach out to the people in their community and hold conversations around marriage equality – Legal Voice is hosting a Familiesfor Equality workshop this Monday, August 6th from 6:00-7:30.  Join us in learning how you can be an integral part of this historic effort.  It really is as easy as sharing your story. 

Laurie Carlsson is Family Outreach Specialist at Pride Foundation.  She is currently working to support communities in their efforts to hold open dialogue around marriage equality.