Karine Jean-Pierre
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Op-ed: To Get Ready for November, Look Back to Maine

Op-ed: To Get Ready for November, Look Back to Maine


As Mutty was experiencing his personal conundrums, I was undergoing a few of my own.

I did not disclose to the “yes” folk that I was gay.  And while I should never need to disclose my sexuality (to them or anyone else), there was still a part of me left feeling a bit guilty that I might be seen as pulling a fast one.

More and more as I entered the opponents’s world, their guard got lowered and they freely shared their thoughts and feelings about “those” people – people like me. From the preposterous to the patronizing, the pious to the predictable, I heard it all.

I would sit face to face with these people or in meetings not daring to show the slightest emotion. The tone of my questions was overly cautious for fear that I might tip my hat if someone detected a twinge of aggression, hostility or challenge in my voice. It made me sick forcing myself to concentrate so intently on the words people were saying versus the rage I was feeling. My innards could not take it any longer, and I needed to excuse myself, find a bathroom in a hurry and throw up.

By going back into the closet again, I needed not only to hide who I was but also I became paranoid that at any moment I would be “discovered.” I tried with all my might to suppress any sort of flamboyancy and tried to tap into “straight” behavior (whatever the hell that was) that I would parse and analyze each word, sentence or gesture to determine if I sounded “gay.” Too Gay. Or very, very gay.

“In that interview,” I would frantically ask my co-director, Jay Nubile, “when I laughed after the second question, did that come off as sounding gay?”

“You always sound gay,” he responded.

But ask they never did. And tell I certainly didn’t. And the one thing I said when I woke up each morning was the same thing I said when I went to bed: “Please dear God, just let me make it to the finish line.”

I yearned to connect to their side — and be a hero to ours. I needed to find a way to understand “those” people. Someone really needed to get into their hearts and souls and truthfully tell their stories. And for the life of me I just couldn’t do it.

I have always prided myself in being able to see and argue both sides of any argument, no matter how vehemently opposed I was to the other side. But this was one side in which I was struggling to find the portal that would lead me to that “aha” moment of connection. I never thought, “OK, I might not agree with you, but I could understand where you are coming from.”

“This referendum campaign isn’t about us hating gays,” Pastor Bob Emmerich would say over and over again as part of the campaign stump speech or in scores of television interviews and public debates. “It’s about defending marriage.”

But then when the cameras weren’t rolling – except ours — Emmerich, the co-chairman for the Yes campaign, would add: “The big question that’s behind all of this really has to be answered and asked by individuals: are we as a society ready to give complete approval to homosexuality? Are we prepared to say as a society that it’s normal or healthy or OK?  I don’t like being forced into that question, but that’s what it comes down to.”

So, strip down all the political messaging and you end up with: “They’re not healthy. They’re not normal.”

I listened syllable by syllable to their words, punctuated by pauses and long silences and repetition until I realized what drove them and who they really were as people. I would catch campaign volunteer Linda Seavey stopping in mid-sentence, her eyes darting around frantically, unsure of where to go next. “If this issue, if this issue,” said Seavey, “does not go the way, the way that I want to it to…”

A pause.

“I just… I… I… I…”

A longer pause.

“Because people, people, people just don’t... they don’t…”

Seavey was now silent. For what seemed to be several minutes, she just stared out the window. “Stop there,” she finally concluded.


Tags: Voices, Voices

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