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My Battle

My Battle


How do you describe what it feels like when you wake up for the first time? That is how The Advocate's arts and entertainment editor, Corey Scholibo, felt as he protested the passing of Proposition 8 at the Mormon Temple in Los Angeles on Thursday. Formerly a cynic when it came to the marriage fight, Scholibo now sees this moment as the first time his complacent generation got a real taste of the fight for our rights and thinks it may have been just what they needed.

Like most gay Americans I felt my whole life that being discriminated against was a matter of fact. You could call it apathy or you could call it patience, but I was aware that we were not equal, and it was not nagging at me nor keeping me awake at night. Perhaps it is because I work in the media and have watched as representations of our lives have slowly -- but, mind you, surely -- changed people's minds. But I had also unwittingly denied myself a lot of things. I never wanted to get married, and when the marriage fight became the central focus of the LGBT movement, I was not 100% sold. While I felt that anyone who wanted to get married should have the fundamental right to do so, I didn't feel that this was where our efforts were best spent. I rejected the argument that gay people are just like everyone else. In fact, I was celebrating the very things that made us so different from everyone else, that had allowed us to question what monogamy was, what marriage was, what the nuclear family ideal added up to.

I was shocked, truly shocked, when the California supreme court ruled in favor of us in May. I never expected it to happen. I was elated when it did come to pass, but as I watched everyone get married all around me, my first reaction was cynicism. I thought, How interesting that so many people have fought so hard to be like the rest of America. I thought, Is my relationship now going to be judged by these newly married gay Americans? and for the first time experienced a mother asking if marriage was in my future. I went to all my friends' weddings, and though I was jealous of the happiness they found, I was not jealous of their entering an institution with all these rules and regulations, so much cultural baggage of who you were as identified by that title: married. Even as I entered a long-term relationship with someone who I knew was my complete other half, I didn't generally think that we would one day get married, and if I did, I thought about it in the abstract, far, far in the distance and certainly not as something of critical importance.

But as cynical as I was, I was sure the battle over marriage was over. I was sure that after that ruling this could not be taken away from us. And now I think it is safe to say a lot of other Californians did too. We saw Ellen and Portia on the cover of People magazine. We watched thousands of other couples marry. We saw the polls tipping in our favor on this issue. Hell, even Kevin and Scotty were wed on the season finale of Brothers & Sisters. This was an issue whose time had come, and for those for whom it was important, I thought they were finally secure.

But complacency is a funny thing. How funny that at 29 years old I was so naive as to how the world works. After all, I am a millennial. I grew up in the age where you get certificates for attendance. I was entitled. I thought it is one thing to stop a right from coming to pass (as the Knight Initiative did in 2000), it is quite another to take an already established right away.

So it was with a reporter's cynicism and a survivalist attitude that on Tuesday night I left Los Angeles's Music Box Theater, where an LGBT crowd had gathered to watch the returns. My boyfriend was heartbroken and trying to express his emotions. I was not affected. This is how it works, I reminded him, like I was still in one of my graduate sociology classes studying the history of sociopolitical movements. This is the setback that comes before the next move forward. Was Hawaii not a setback before Massachusetts? Was Bush not the greatest setback followed by Obama, who may be the greatest promise? I don't know what to tell you, I said, we just get up tomorrow and keep going.

The next night everyone was talking about the protest in West Hollywood, but I decided not to go. I wanted to go home and retreat from all this. My boyfriend and I watched Sleeping Beauty and drank wine. I was amused at the scene in the beginning when the good fairies plot against the evil Maleficent. "What can we do? She knows everything," one of them said. "Not everything," another responds. "She does not know about kindness. She does not know about love." We laughed at how fittingly this described the religious movement that had put us where we are today.

And then I got a call to turn on the local news. People were taking to the street. Someone had been beaten with a billy club. Something was actually happening. Not everyone had decided to escape; some of them were out there right now fighting back. The next day there was another protest scheduled near our offices in Westwood. We went in a group of eight or so, laughing and making jokes all the way. "This is going to be one stylish protest," I said. And there it was, thousands of people converging on the Mormon Temple on Santa Monica Boulevard. As we approached I kept getting more and more excited. I was screaming out at passing cars that were honking and holding my sign above my head. "I Am a Victim of H8," it read. And I felt like a victim for the first time.

I had discussed this all logically with my therapist that morning. "What feelings does this bring up in you?" she asked. "You actually talk about being gay as if it is this completely integrated part of you." It was, I thought. I knew what it meant to be gay. I knew what the liabilities were. I knew I couldn't hold hands everywhere I wanted to. I knew it meant that I might never marry, that having children would be difficult. I knew there would always be a group of people who thought what I did and therefore who I was, was fundamentally wrong, a sin, and disgusting.

I got involved. I stopped filming the throngs of people with my handheld camera and joined them. I rushed across the street in a lull of traffic to the median and shouted along, "What do we want? Equal rights! When do we want it? Now!" Tears started to come down my face. I realized I had been made less than. Someone had decided, someone had always decided, what my life and my dreams consisted of. I accepted it because that is what survival is all about. But now I was pissed. My generation had not known this. Back in September I got scared and started phone banking for No on 8. I brought all my friends out one night and signed up for one visibility action. Every time the campaign sent an e-mail out, I sent another $100 or $50. But it was antiseptic, removed. I wanted them to wrap this thing up and nip it in the bud. I wasn't really fighting. I wanted it handed to me like so many other things my generation has taken for granted.

But to stand there and scream at the top of my lungs at the Mormon Church and really mean it when I said I wanted equal rights now -- that woke me up. I was young and gay and angry all at the same time for the first time in my life. It is not acceptable for this to happen. It is not OK that the Mormon Church funnels money into California to accomplish this. It is not OK that your friends, your family, your neighbors love you but just can't get behind this issue. There is no excuse.

So you better get pissed and stay pissed, because no one is going to give us our rights. Will & Grace isn't going to get it done, and it doesn't matter if all those high-profile closet cases finally come out and give a new face to our community. Standing in the streets holding a sign for the first time in my overprivileged life, I now know: This is not the end. This is just the beginning.

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Corey Scholibo