I Will Dance with Ellen, and I Will Shop at JC Penney
By Deb Rox on February 12, 2012
I had lunch with a friend a few weeks ago. She was struggling with legal difficulties years after an adoption, with health insurance woes because of a budget-cut job loss a year ago, with money hemorrhaging everywhere. Problems many of us have, but in her case each of those particular problems wouldn't exist if her female partner (a stoic, strong, hardworking, cute medical professional who bakes Alaskans, could lift a truck off of your chest and who's got moves like Jagger) were a man and therefore someone my friend could legally marry in Florida. Alas, no marriage = no two-parent adoption, no family health benefits for her and their child during the job loss, extra legal troubles, less money.
"I'm just so tired, you know, of always proving something, fighting some unfairness, and making up for the gap." she said. "It's just exhausting."
And then we talked about the Republican primaries, and our deep, deep fears for our country. For losing or halting the gains we've made. How we felt ashamed to only give money to advocacy groups who fight our good fight, that we knew we should be campaigning. Or doing something. Something more.
And then we decided we were tired again.
We aren't supposed to talk about this outside of cone of silence, but trying to put handles on the strain of oppression is impossible, the enormity is incomprehensible. Sure, gay folk are fabulous, and we hold our heads up because if we don't RuPaul will slap our knuckle and we'll remember Stonewall and we get a grip.
But truthfully, it is exhausting to always fight, to be on guard, to push ever onward, to bridge the gap, to make it better for others even if we've been under resourced ourselves, to save teenagers from suicide and soldiers/teachers/scouts/ministers/workers of all kinds from closets and California from H8 not to mention all the other states and the entire world from Santorum et al fearmongering themselves into leading the Free World into a regressive hell and to get orphans into homes (yes, wonderful homes with two moms or two dads who will love them forever), to boycott the companies that support the hate machines, and to educate and represent and be out so people (even our own families of origin, if they still speak to us) can see we are just like them, and to hold on to our tender, hard won relationships despite all of this pressure, and, and...so many ands... and to shield all of us, all of us from bigots somehow co-opting both religion and American politics on the issue of our right to marry.
It's exhausting to feel the crushing whole of all of this and all that we are denied.
So we don't look at it all at one time, we band together and we keep moving. We are grateful for our gains. For our allies--because that's where the power truly lies. For the fundamental goodness of people who are working, in their own lifetimes, to keep up with and advance the social acceptance that supports legal change. We are hopeful that America's intelligence and principles of freedom and justice for all will triumph. We have pride, pride that would make you cry with its flamboyant beauty, compassion and fierce human joy.
And. It's exhausting.
So we wrap our hands around coffee cups, around each other's arms, and when we whisper that we are tired, we tell each other it's getting better.
We remind ourselves of this (it's just a matter of time, it's just a matter of time) when it still seems so hard, so unfair. When lives are lost and still closeted and denied. When the world is hateful or regressive or ignorant or wrong. When we aren't included or our voices are ignored. When we are tired. It's getting better.
I think that's why it is so uplifting to celebrate the way that the Girl Scouts decided to push back against gender oppression. The way that JCPenney didn't buckle to pressured requests from a bigoted advocacy group to fire Ellen as their spokesperson. When these things happen we see someone get to stay instead of being told to leave. Symbolically, we see standing up/standing by/standing bullies down. We see the incremental gains manifest in one everyday story of afterschool activities or weekend shopping trips for new underwear. These huge, complex issues fought over decades somehow have handles on them, and the leverage is such a lovely relief.
And maybe this is the most important thing: seeing JCP deny the bigoted pressure gives us hope that maybe others will co-sign that the hate groups aren't speaking for the majority, that they won't ruin this country by hypnotizing it with fear from the spinning eyes of regressive right wingers fueled by their crispy Christian-in-name-only chicken nugget money.
The nice thing, the deep breath thing, is just for just a minute, for one news cycle, it looks like instead of fighting/boycotting/educating/advocating/mourning loss/despairing for our country, we can do something so much easier. We can dance with Ellen. Just like her everyday audience of so many straight moms (because Ellen pulls the milf moms, hell yes she does.) We can all dance with Ellen in the aisles of JCP.
For just one commercial-break song, we can dance with our allies and take a tiny break while still moving forward. It's not a huge thing. It's not a hard thing, not at all. It's not an earth-shattering gain. However, it's a grand relief to get to cheer on something good instead of fighting something hateful.
We'll take it. And then we'll get back to work together.
We'll dance and in our own symbolic act, we'll shop at JCP. This Sunday, in fact. I'm hoping to find a life-sized cutout of Ellen, and I'm bringing my boombox, and we'll dance. I hope my friend can come. She probably needs to dance even more than she needs coffee and assurances. Not as much as she needs the right to marry, adopt, and live a life free from oppression and the Republican party, but still, if gay people know anything it's that sometimes, the most important thing you can do is dance. Let's go ahead and let ourselves have this one little song.
[Editor's Note: For details on the JC Penney Shop-In, click HERE. --Morgan]
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