The virgin lobbyist

Mar 4, 2009 at 6:00 am

Last Wednesday I found myself standing in a line, in front of a state representative, waiting for my turn to tell him in two sentences why I, being a lesbian, was a decent enough human to adopt or foster a child.

Never imagined this one, not in my strangest of dreams. I had traveled to Frankfort with Louisville Fairness to lobby against the bill to ban gays from adopting or fostering a child (S.B. 68, a law that would apply to all same-sex cohabitating adults — sorry, Grandma, because you live with your recently divorced sister, you are unfit to adopt or foster your grandchildren).

It won’t pass. None of the major social-worker/adoption agencies support this bill. Sen. Gary Tapp, who introduced the bill, has never, to my knowledge, been a social worker or worked with child welfare services.

I was a virgin lobbyist until Wednesday. I mean in a theoretical way; I’ve been a lobbyist all my life. I’m always speaking to important government officials about their policies, why they’re wrong, what needs to change, why I should have their job, etc. (Sometimes I even talk out loud.)

I’ve always known lobbyists were important to the democratic process (or whatever), I’ve just never really exactly known what they do; and while I have a feeling that I had a Shirley Temple experience, at least now I have a better idea. I loved it.

I went to the capitol because I thought I might regain some sanity. I had just spent a gruesome week subbing at one of the “good schools.” I had to call in the last day I was scheduled because I couldn’t deal anymore. There were various reasons for my refusal to return to that school (and my fantasies of a really mean, angry, smelly sub in my place the next day). The main one, however, was the PTSD I was experiencing from hearing the word “gay” used in a pejorative manner so many times.

I spent the majority of my day off in Frankfort, feeling like I was actually doing something, feeling a part of the process. I walked away with a sense of accomplishment and a level of engagement in a current reality that I haven’t felt in a long time (and I got to eat in the cafeteria, which was a definite bonus).

When it was my turn to talk I felt a lump in my throat. I almost started crying at the break between my two sentences — I hate crying in public, and I do it well. My mother told me once to think of tomatoes when I was on the verge of tears, but it rarely works.

I think the reason I almost lost it was in the telling. I had never, as a faux straight person, had to defend my character or worth because of something that had no relevance to the situation. Apparently, in the eyes of the law, I would have been a better parent miserable, married and — just so long as this one’s in the list somewhere — straight.

I knew I was gay when I was 7. And even though I have liberal parents, I spent many nights awake, trying to figure out a way around it. I wanted to be straight because I didn’t want to be treated “gay.” In all the jokes I came across as a child, I never once heard one making fun of straight people. If something was lame or stupid, it was always gay — never “straight” or “hetero.”

In school, no one was sent to the principal for calling someone else gay; we were never taught using that word as an insult was incorrect. We were taught why using the n-word was wrong, and we learned its history. But if someone called another kid gay in school, that person was reprimanded as if he’d said fuck or something. It didn’t occur to me until much later that the word gay wasn’t inherently insulting.

Standing in a line, waiting to testify, I kept thinking about a fact I had learned the day before: Black Swans are raised by same-sex parents. There is one species of Gecko that essentially clones itself. Gay and straight don’t exist in nature. If gay had never been used for anything but sexuality, without any negative connotation, then I wouldn’t be waiting to say: It took me 20 years to come out. I became no less worthy or capable on that day.

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