Sunday, June 29, 2014

I like making things about me.

I had the best weekend.  I'm going to describe it a little out of order to emphasize its full impact on me.  Jump into my rented TARDIS; mind the upholstery.

Our first stop in the TARDIS is Monday morning.  After I dropped Ace off at art day camp at 9, I got the WASP-iest coffee I could find at Cups and got home and realized I could do anything or nothing at all for SIX WHOLE HOURS.  So, naturally, I stripped to my underwear (sorrynotsorry) and sat in my fluffy recliner and enjoyed a completely quiet house while I drank my Java del WASP.

I decided I wanted to watch documentaries and found American Experience: Freedom Riders.  I learned SO much from that doc; it was extremely well done.  Highly recommended.  I then asked for recommendations for civil rights era documentaries on Facebook and Twitter and several people recommended Eyes On The Prize, a 14-part PBS series on YouTube, so I started that.  One hour is entirely about Mississippi and it's horrifying.  Art day camp kinda got kiboshed so I'm stalled on hour 8, but it's all so informative and I recommend it as well.

Stop number 2 in the TARDIS brings us forward to Saturday.  My very best friend and her husband came from New Orleans to stay the night and since he's a photographer and she's always loved photography, I decided to take them to the photography exhibit documenting the civil rights era at the Mississippi Museum of Art called This Light Of Ours.  One of the more moving photographs was of a 104-year-old gentleman of color being hoisted above the crowd after registering to vote for the first time in his life.

This was one of the more shocking images:

(Photo credit: Matt Heron)

I held back tears when I saw that picture and had to look away.  I cannot fathom being a person of color and seeing that woman holding that sign in an era in which I had to fear violence or death just so I could be granted the right to vote or send my child to an integrated school.

For our 3rd stop in the TARDIS, we're going back in time to Friday night.  It was the public premiere of A Mississippi Love Story, a short film documenting 14 months in the life of my good friend Eddie Outlaw and his husband Justin.  It's a very moving, poignant, and funny film about the fight for gay rights in Mississippi and I urge you to spend the $2.50 to buy it and support the project.  Hopefully it'll get national attention.

Here's where I make these very important events about me, like I do - I'm in A Mississippi Love Story.  Since I still have the TARDIS, let's go back a year when SCOTUS struck down DOMA.  I had an appointment with Eddie that morning before the decision was handed down, although I suuuuuure tried to reschedule because I was afraid he'd be nervous and mullet me.  He assured me that he'd be very zen and calm because "everything's the same right now.  Your haircut will probably be the best I'll give all day because I'll either be very excited or very angry for the rest of the day."  Sure enough, he did a great job, after which we walked outside where he gave interviews and our close friend Lori and I stared at our phones waiting for the live announcement of the SCOTUS decision.  Lori and I jumped up excitedly when we got the news (I still remember the tweet from @SCOTUSblog; it just said "DOMA," but with a strikethrough), but Eddie was giving an interview to our local news station so we had to hug each other and keep quiet until he was finished.  He finished the interview, read the decision out loud for the documentary crew, then Lori and I practically exploded into the scene to hug him and make the loud noises we're prone to make until his husband walked out and they gave each other the kind of hug you only see in the credits of Love, Actually.

(Photo credit: Yo.)

I'm also in the movie briefly at a rally at the Capitol.  I'm really overstating my presence - you can only see me if I point myself out to you for all 6 seconds I'm in there, but by damn, I'm in there.

Back to Friday night.  After the movie, Eddie and Justin both gave speeches, and in Eddie's, he said the only thing he felt somewhat hesitant about was getting his friends involved - he didn't realize how much his friends would be in the film.  I wanted to walk to the front of the room and pinch his arm.  This entire week, I've seen pictures and videos of vile, despicable racists.  Holding up hateful signs, committing acts of violence, sneering angrily at people, simply because people of color wanted to not be second-class citizens anymore.  What must the children, the grandchildren of these people think of them?  They were committed to permanence for acts of hatred.  I would be mortified if the woman with that awful sign in the picture above was my grandmother.  Or if *shudder* I was a descendant of Ross Barnett.  (I hope God lets me kick Ross Barnett in the balls.  A couple times.)

Then there's me, very briefly committed to permanence in a film about the advancement of gay rights in America.  Excitedly and tearfully hugging a gay man in one of the most victorious and emotional moments in his life.  Ace didn't have any questions when I introduced him to "Mr. Eddie and his husband Justin" - how will Ace feel about me in 20 years?  In 50 years, when (God willing) LGBT people are no longer second-class citizens and being a homophobe is as shameful as being a racist is now, will I be able to show my grandchildren A Mississippi Love Story (in our futuristic Apple iHouse which is underwater yet entirely solar-powered with walls made of computer screens and voice-activated vodka tonic dispensers) and have them be proud of me?  

(As an aside; I don't want to compare myself to the white Freedom Riders or anything.  I don't realistically face violence or death for my involvement with the LGBT movement.  I do fear violence somewhat for my involvement with the protection of women's rights and the abortion clinic and won't let Ace play alone in the front yard.  But that's another story.)

Here's the thing - change is coming, and you have an inevitable legacy.  Let's get back in the TARDIS and skip forward to June 29, 2064.  LGBT people are no longer second-class citizens - being a homophobe is as shameful as being a racist is in 2014.  Your grandchildren are at a photographic exhibition about anti-gay rallies in the early part of the century and see you holding a sign with a sneer on your face.  How will they feel about you?  How will you explain to them that you actively suppressed the advancement of people who only wanted the same rights you have?  I'll be proud of the legacy I'm creating for the rest of my life, will you?


Diana Britt said...

Exactly what I've been saying all along!

misty overstreet said...

As a child raised by my gay uncle, who passed away in an LGBT hate crime, I understand your zealousness, but would say that what is needed most in this state has nothing to do with anti-LGBT forces. What Mississippi needs is a unity of all of its state minorities, a further understanding of the smoke screens that exist in its discriminatory practices, and the understanding that the state cannot preach religious freedom and state-rights neutrality, which participating in as many federal aid programs as it does. Myself, and my family, were personally impacted by the events surrounding my uncle's death, and I myself was attacked at school on several occasions, and can honestly say that what we really need is just a little more empathy!

RichaTee said...

I feel Misty on her comment. More empathy for human rights and civil rights for all people, regardless of origin, race or creed.