Sunday, September 21, 2008

On being nice (day two of the fair)

L and I went back to the fair again today, this time to help out at the Equality Maine booth gathering signatures in support of marriage rights for same-sex couples.

You may remember how I declined to work at the polls gathering signatures earlier this year. I was afraid that I would get frustrated with the idiots of the world and smack somebody squarely in the kisser. Hancock County Captain K agreed that perhaps I might be of most use somewhere else, so I made cookies for the volunteers. It kept me out of jail, so I was glad to provide the confections. Well, the Common Ground Country Fair attracts a pretty diverse crowd, although mostly people of progressive thought and deed. There are some holdouts from the old ways of thinking, and some who resent the intrusion of politics into what they view as an agricultural event.

So not everybody said yes to signing the postcards we offered. It was easier than working the polls, I am sure, but still, every refusal hit at my heart. After a while I grew to resent the fact that I have to essentially beg people to change the laws so that I get treated like a human being with all the rights of citizenship afforded my heterosexual peers. And I got right fucking cranky when people would say no. Or "I'm not decided on this issue." To me that read as the words of a bigot who was also a coward and would not own up to her own bigotry to my face.

Yeah. I lasted about two hours and quit before I became a serious liability.

As was bound to happen, L and I each ran into an ex-lover (two different women) but, considering the odds and the population, we're calling that a win for two days at the fair.

I had two real high points in my signature-gathering efforts. One of the first people I approached gladly took the clipboard and then explained to me that it was very important for her to be signing. Both her parents are Baptist ministers in Western Maine, she said. They are kind, gently, generous, loving people, who simply don't get it. She gets it. She has tried to explain it to her parents and her family, but they insist that being queer is a choice and an evil one at that. Love the sinner, hate the sin, they say. She wished us all the best of luck and told us that she supported us and would continue to work on her family. I was deeply touched.

The other highlight was when I saw from the corner of my eye young Matthew (EQME organizer guy - amazingly cool and very, VERY brave!) looked up at this huge mountain of a biker guy and asked if he was a Maine voter. The biker looked down at him over the tops of his glasses and slowly answered "yeeesss..." It was the kind of drawn out pronunciation that drips with reluctance and suspicion. Hidden in the tone was the phrase "just what is this group going to want from me?"

About then, I looked up and recognized the biker from my 12-step meetings in Hancokc County. And his wife as well. I've seen him around for a while, and he has many years and much wisdom. He plays in a rock and roll cover band called The Resentments that plays at sober dances around Downeast Maine. "Hey, I know you!" I said and strode over at once for handshakes and hugs. The guy was enormous and gives substantial hugs. His wife is much smaller and gives far less dangerous hugs, but equally nice. "Hey," I said, "will you sign this to show support so someday L and I can get married?" It was odd, but it felt like the air went still around us. It felt like people stopped talking and the whole world held its breath. I had nothing to fear from this man, we've seen each other cry and know each other's darkest pain, but still, it felt like something huge was shifting in the universe. The big man nodded. "Yeah, that makes sense" he said, and reached for the clipboard. The world started up around us again. There were hugs and smiles and laughter and support and love. It was a truly amazing thing. I don't know if this guy had ever thought once about same-sex marriage, never mind twice, but in that moment, he understood and stepped directly from acceptance to support. It was a beautiful thing.

We came home earlier tonight than last night, but more tired, I think. Being nice on demand seems to sap my strength. If only I could find a gig that required me to be sarcastic and bitter. How cool would that be? Ah well. Another time perhaps. The fair is done for this year and it was a great time.


Snave said...

After hearing that story, I want to go see the Resentments! And good for you, being out advocating! Good post!

Robin said...

Do you have an online petition? I'm not a Maine voter but I'd happily sign :).

MRMacrum said...

I dunno dawn. Something tells me you might not like a gig that "required" you to be sarcastic. Then it would become work.

I get a chuckle out of the folks who get huffy about politics in a setting that attracts people in large numbers. As soon as two people show up anywhere, politics becomes part of the interaction.

As snave says, a good post.

Yes, tell me where I can sign. Although I may have already. But if memory serves, nothing for this election.

Dawn on MDI said...

If anyone wants to sign a card and you are a registered Maine voter, you can do that. check out Equality Maine at and contact them saying you'd like a set of them postcards to sign and they'll set you right up. I think they are saving the postcards to mail out in bulk at some point during the next legislative session, so they'll want them back.

Oh, if you're NOT a Maine voter but would like to help, you can visit the EQME site and make a donation. They operate on a shoestring, and every $20 they get makes a difference.

Thank you all for being so wonderful!