Meet in the Middle for Equality to Overturn Prop 8 Rally Almost Overturned my Support for Gay Rights (Almost)
Fresno, CA—“Meet in the Middle” was the “angry protest” promised by the Overturn Prop 8 people in the aftermath of the Supreme Courts bullshit decision to Uphold Proposition 8, the measure that for the first time in history stripped a minority of their FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS.
So OF COURSE I was out there at Santa Monica and Valencia on Tuesday marching to protest Supreme Bullshit, and of course I was RSVP'ed to go to Fresno for “Meet in the Middle” on Saturday (it was between fighting for civil liberties and going to a party my friend was throwing in Hollywood, I THOUGHT I'd made the right choice).
Caravans of carpools and buses were organizing all over the state and Socal, so I showed up to Union Station to grab a comfy and fully guaranteed seat on the bus. Finding the bus was the start of my adventure.
I got to Union Station in LA riding on 2 hours of sleep and the promise of breakfast when I got there, parked my car topside and started walking around all alone with a big blue “I DO SUPPORT THE FREEDOM TO MARRY” eqca sign. I was trying to hide it behind my back but it was two sided so that didn't work out too well. All of the sudden some skinny Latino boy with a girly-walk ran up to me wanting to know where to meet up. I guess I wasn't the only one with the plan of “follow the people holding the signs.” His name was Darwin, we walked around until we saw someone in a Day of Decision sweatshirt who told us we were in the right place, early.
Darwin and I ended up sticking together while he checked out guys.
“Don't worry, I'm gonna introduce you to lots of girls,” he said to me, then pulled me over to a young lesbian couple and literally introduced me. I waved at them, Darwin did the talking. Darwin's friends eventually showed up in a little grey Centra, all tall, lanky, and as fruity as he was. They talked like valley girls with a limp wrist and a lisp, and smiled “Hayyy” as they shook my hand. We all grabbed car-paint pens and scribbled “Equal Rights” and “Love not H8” all over the little Centra until it was a rainbow nightmare. I personally scrawled “Freedom Fighters” on the side and we all took pictures in front of it while a documentary filmmaker interviewed us.
“Why are you here?” he asked me.
“I'm here to fight Supreme Bullshit because the ruling didn't change the last ruling in the San Francisco marriage cases, Prop 8 is still unconstitutional and we really need to ban together to fight for Equality,” I answered not realizing I'd said “we.”
The caravan was ready to leave and Darwin's friends had an extra seat in their car, so I gave up my guaranteed spot on the perfectly guaranteed safe-return bus and hopped in a car full of fabulous flamers and one short lesbian named Ana. Jaime was our driver, Sean was riding shotgun, while I rode in the back with Darwin and Ana. (We also grabbed like 3 boxes of cookies and muffins from the breakfast table for the ride).
“Get down!” Darwin called and ducked as we were pulling away. Apparently he'd grabbed a gas card after Jaime had already been given a gas car, and Sean pulled out his own gas car that the organizers had given him also. $75 worth of free gas for equality by accident.
“Alright we've got the trip paid for, now lets go to Disneyland!” said Darwin.
“Wouldn't it be funny if that's what everyone ended up doing? Taking the gas cards and not showing up to the Rally?” We kicked around the idea for a moment and then hopped on the 101 to find an Exxon Mobil. A text from Ana's mother read “Y R U going 2 Fresno? Nothing up there but fruit, vegetables and Mexicans!”
“Luckily, Dawin doesn't just like Fruits, he LOVES vegetables!” said Sean.
“I wanna suck on some cucumbers but hell no Mexicans!” scoffed Darwin, who was Nicaraguan.
“Whoa!” I exclaimed wide-eyed and surprised, at which point Sean leaned back and said, “you'll never think about salad the same way again,” at which point Ana shot back, “she doesn't need to, she's a lesbian.”
Whoa. This was going to be an interesting car ride.
Sean and Darwin switched seats at the gas station we found in Boyle Heights, Jaime's hometown (we were going the wrong way but intended to turn around after we filled up). Sean sat in between in me and Ana for the rest of the way up to Fresno and chatted like a gitty school-girl about how they'd been at Club Rage the previous night and were rolling off 3 hours of sleep.
“My gay friend took me to Rage for his 21st birthday,” I said, “it was an educational experience seeing all those beautiful guys grinding on each other.” That comment was followed up by a rash of jokes about how a lesbian found gay guys attractive and self-promoting comments about things they wanted to do to each other. I don't know how I got into a conversation with Sean about politics, but the only way I could save my Republican skin from a Liberal tongue-lashing was asking Sean personal questions.
“So, can I ask you a question I've always wanted to ask a gay guy but have been too embarrassed?” We turned to face each other like teenage girls talking about secret crushes all excited. “Can guys have sex like...facing each other?” He laughed and then went into incredibly graphic detail about the fundamentals of gay sex, which I really didn't need to know. Sean gave me the whole lowdown on gay-terminology, positions, “tops,” “bottoms,” and “various',” which apparently means either or.
“That's one of the standard questions about gay sex,” he said coming back to my question, “the standard question I've always wanted to know about lesbian sex is—“ brrrriiiiinnggg.
THANK GOD MY CELL PHONE RANG! It was the Courage Campaign people calling to see if I was going to canvas with them tomorrow. I struggled to hear them over Britney Spears and Miley Cirus tunes blasting on Jaime's radio, and tried to carry on the conversation as long as possible with the guy on the other end so that by the time I'd gotten off the cell phone, Ana and Sean had already changed the subject of the conversation.
Somewhere past Bakersfeild, a biker on a Harley pulled up next to our Rainbow Monstrocity and gave us the eye. Ana tried to ignore him but then smiled and waved, he flipped us off. I rolled down the window, flipped him double birdies and called him a faggot. Everyone in the car laughed.
"He's wearing velcro shoes!" called Ana.
After four hours on the road, we finally got into Fresno, Jesus' tourist trap. In town, bikers were everywhere but ignored us for the most part, and a few friendly cars honked at us in support. We parked, applied liberal amounts of sunscreen and pulled out our signs. A same-sex married couple came up to us to say hi and when they saw my sign they nearly blew a gasket.
“Don't use EQCA signs, they're always trying to hijack our events, here use this sign.” They threw my blue sign back in Jaime's trunk and gave me a hand-made sign that said “We Deserve Equal Marriage Rights.” Well, I ended up carrying around a We sign.
Boy was it HOT! Like a billion plus degrees. Darwin walked with his arm around me as he scanned all the non-hetero guys.
“This is where you find long-term relationship type stuff, we don't want that. We want quickies in the bathrooms, backs of cars, wherever but no longer than seven minutes, lets see who can get more,” I didn't say anything when he challenged me. Just changed the subject to a guy I saw walking around with cool spikey hair.
“Ooh, I like that guys hair,” I exclaimed. Darwin rolled with the fact that I was looking at a guy and looked with me.
“He's a bottom for sure.”
“He's pretty hot too,” I replied getting everyone in the group to look at me funny.
“No, you know who's hot,” said Darwin, “that camera guy.”
I looked over at the blatantly straight camera man with big arms and a tattoo and swooned right along with Darwin, who was by now eyeing me quite confused.
The rally kicked off with speakers from gay rights advocacy groups all over the country, but when “Don't Ask Don't Tell” victim Lt. Dan Choi got up on stage, everyone went WILD! In front of the news cameras, people stood up and clapped, but behind the press stage where the cameras couldn't see, everyone was jumping up and down and cheering. I was jumping like crazy, screaming and waving my We poster all over the place while Lt. Choi recited a poem in Arabic and a quote from “a President” who said “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
"Well I'm tired of asking, I'm going to tell! And I'm going to keep telling all the way to Washington!" proclaimed Choi. I was cheering like I was at a rock concert, I'm a fan of soldiers seeing as I've always wanted to be one but have a problem with a certain combat-exclusion policy. Sean and I were chanting “Dan for President” after Lt. Choi's powerful speech. I would vote for that Korean man for President.
We all got pictures in front of a big banner that said “In Case You Haven't Noticed, This Flag Is Not White.” We couldn't stand another moment in the sun, so we left before Cleve Jones spoke to get some lunch. Stupid.
We stopped at a Jack in the Box and sat around a table Bullshitting. These guys were really cool. Most of my gay friends are the kind of guys who hang around straight men and have to tell you they're gay, but these flamboyant college kids were the kind of gay guys you party with. I was having the time of my life! They were sitting around the table talking about their sex lives, the men they'd dated, the women Ana had dated, and finally came to me. Uhhh...
I swallowed and was silent for a moment, now I knew what coming out must be like for gays. So, I set my drink to the side, folded my hands in front of me, and took a deep breath. Everyone's eyes were on me.
“Um, guys, you know this is probably going to sound like the weirdest coming out story you've ever hear but...I'm straight.”
Dead silence. Blank stares.
“What?” they asked after almost ten whole seconds. “Really?”
“Oh my god!” they exclaimed, then smiled quite surprised. “Why didn't you say anything?”
“I'm sorry, I didn't know how to approach it, I thought you would be like 'why are you here' if I pointed it out.”
I then explained to them why I was there. When I went out for the football team and the wrestling team in high school, I shaved my head for Hell Week just like the rest of the guys. I lost all my friends because they were homophobic, everyone called me a lesbian, no one hung around me because they were intimidated, guys didn't approach me. I told them how I'd been kicked out of lockerrooms, had complaints filed against me at the YMCA, been lectured by priests and doctors alike and been discriminated against for something I wasn't even anyway! I told them that I knew exactly what gays went through and anyone who voted Yes on 8 has never experienced real discrimination. Ending hate of homosexuals would make people stop hating me, and since I've been lumped in with them so many times, I feel like this is my fight too. This is ridiculous, if people harbored so much hate that it even spilled over onto kids who were straight, then I want to help. I also told them about my best friend who got thrown out of his house when he was 17 for telling his dad he was gay. I was totally anti-gay in 9th grade, but then my best friend came out to me and I thought “do I really want to lose my best friend?” The answer was obvious, and that is why I was at Meet in the Middle on Saturday.
“You are the most awesome straight girl in the world!” they all exclaimed. “How cute that she's coming out to us. How long have you known?” they joked.
“So that's why you were checking out my camera man!” joked Darwin.
They all proceeded to tell me their own coming out stories.
“Gosh but you were showing all the signs!”
“I'm sorry for throwing off your gay-dar,” I apologized. Then they got serious. They all apologized to me.
“You know, it's funny how we all get mad about people stereotyping us when we just turned around and did it to her.” We talked about how gay is perceived, and how funny that the stereotypes were affecting me in my life to the point where I'd be out there marching with them. It wasn't just a gay issue anymore. I found out Jaime had been in ROTC, not very stereotypical gay.
We finished our lunch and got back on the road, this time Ana sat in between me and Sean. Sean leaned over and raised his eyebrows at me.
“So it's good I never got to finish my question about lesbian sex isn't it.”
“I'm so glad my phone rang!” I exclaimed. The question was then fielded to Ana.
“So what do lesbians consider 'penetrative' sex?” asked Sean. An in-depth explanation about lesbian sex followed, again which I probably didn't need to know.
“Do you girls scissor?” Sean asked Ana, then explained to me what it was. I decided to hell with it and asked my own question.
“Don't lesbians do it with strap-ons?” This led to Sean asking me if I would ever “peg” a guy I was with.
“What the hell?” I asked. He then explained to me that “pegging” is doing a guy with a strap-on. All of this sex education was kind of overwhelming my comfort levels. Sean laughed and asked if they were making me uncomfortable. Ana said they were making her uncomfortable more than anything.
“She's asking questions, maybe she's bicurious or bisexual,” said Ana.
That threw me. My whole tone changed. I whirled and suddenly wanted nothing more than to get out of the car, and might have if we weren't in the middle of nowhere. In that moment, I realized why people voted Yes on Prop 8, and what gay people did to turn straight allies away from them. I also realized that picking and choosing which political beliefs from which political party to believe in lost you credibly.
“Ana, quit it, look you're making her blush!” said Sean. I don't know whether I was red from embarrassment or anger, but I was suddenly extremely uncomfortable sitting next to a lesbian whom I thought might have been trying to convert me. After I'd calmed down, I convinced myself that it had only been a passing comment and I was being irrational. I fidgeted uneasy for a long time after that. Suddenly we came up on highway 99.
“Hey guys, wanna go to Sequoia?” asked Jaime out of the blue, and the next second we were veering across 5 lanes onto Sequoia Hwy. We drove over snaking, winding roads all the way up mountains to the National Park. Darwin pee'd on General Sherman, Jaime got a ton of pictures of him posing like a model, Sean and Jamie got in a lot of catty arguments, which I learned gay guys do a lot, they're worse than women, and on our way back, we blew a tire. Nice. So there we were, 2 girls and 3 queens and none of us knew how to change a tire...in the dark. We waved someone down to help us and were about to get going when Darwin nearly had a heart attack from seeing a coyote. He was scared and jumped in the backseat.
“Drive, drive, drive!” he yelled. So we swerved down the forest roads once again, the altitude getting to us when suddenly Darwin called for us to stop because he was going to be car sick. It all went downhill from there. Darwin stopped responding to our questions and started wheezing. He was nearly passed out couldn't breathe or talk. We stopped the car and I leapt out and took Darwin's pulse. Fast and thready. His legs were cold, he wasn't sweating, I told Jaime to get on his cell phone because Darwin might have been having a heat stroke. No cell reception. Great! We waved down another shady driver who told us to get in his car and he'd take us for help. Um, stranger, red flag, we drove Darwin to the fire station. He was fine and apparently suffered an anxiety attack from the altitude, which he'd been dealing with all his life. It was midnight by the time we left the park.
"I wanted that firefighter to give me mouth to mouth with his tongue on my nipple!" exclaimed Darwin. We determined that hot guys are the cure to Darwin's anxiety attacks and we needed a hologram of guys whenever he started spazzing. A side thought crossed my mind that the Firefighters probably wouldn't want to be thanked by having gay guys ogle them.
So we ended up in a cheap hotel somewhere in Bakersfield. We snuck 5 people into a two bedroom with no toilet seat! We had to work out accommodations. Five people, two beds. They were going to make one bed the girls bed. That's where I got fidgety.
“I don't know how to say what I want to say without offending anyone,” I stammered. “It's weird, the gender roles are kinda reversed a little here. I'm sorry but I'm more comfortable sleeping next to a gay guy than I am next to a lesbian.” They understood and I ended up crowded onto a twin squashed in between Sean and Darwin. When I woke up the next morning, I was really ready to go home.
The Freedom Mobile was fun at the rally, but now in the middle of Bakersfield, it was suggested that we should look around for a hose.
“Nah,” said Jaime. There we were in the middle of god-knows-where surrounded by rednecks and wetbacks with a colorful kaleidoscope of liberty-and-justice-for-all-who-survive. We got the spare-tire changed at an all-hispanic tire place, crowded back in and drove back down to LA.
"We didn't get to meet any hot guys on this trip! Let's go pick some up, Nicole said she's gay."
"Hey!" I shouted, ready to punch him.
"I said you're game," said Darwin.
"Oh," I replied, and stayed quiet for a long time after that, peering out the window.
One day of spanish bubblegum pop blasting and every other word being a sex joke was fun for a while, but the second day, I found myself cursing queers and I'd never said the word queer in my life.
“I'm sorry,” said Sean, “we don't mean to talk about so much sex but when you get a car full of sexually frustrated gay guys, that's all you're gonna hear,” then they went back to making sexual innuendo and Ana kept talking about what it was like to be a lesbian. I tried to pay attention but at that point honestly didn't want to hear it. At that point I was gayed out, done, felt weird, and did NOT want to know what it was like to be a lesbian. We parked at a grocery store so Darwin could use the bathroom yet again and a truck pulled up with a bumper sticker that said “Freedom isn't Free, Protected by Smith and Wesson.”
“That truck is packing, probably Republicans,” scoffed Ana. They didn't notice me peer genuinely annoyed at them through my sunglasses. It was Democrats who passed Prop 8. Finally back down the highway to LA, rolling on a few hours of sleep and kinked necks, we dropped Ana off at Occidental College to go straight to the Canvas, and dropped Darwin off in East LA.
“Home Sweet Home,” he mused as I saw what was probably the cause of his anxiety, I mean it's East LA.
Jaime dropped me and Sean off right back where we'd started at Union Station. We all got contact info and parted ways. I left kicking myself for not bringing a camera because this would have made one hell of a documentary!
Well, all in all, Meet in the Middle was eventful, chaotic, insightful and an experience. I missed a happening party in LA to go, but had some form of crazy fun anyway. However, I think I'm pretty gayed-out, I'm sorry to say I left my “I DO” sign in Jaime's trunk. I still think the Supreme Court's decision was wrong, and with this whole abortion thing, am still scared my own rights will be taken away by popular vote, but now instead of holding a sign that says “Vote No on Prop 8,” I think I'll make a sign that just says “Vote” seeing as this WHOLE MESS happened because gays didn't all get out and vote the first time around. So far I've met at least five who didn't vote. Forget right and wrong for a moment, people died for everyone's right to vote, and no one does. Now that a national movement for full federal equality has been sparked, Prop 8 may have been the best thing to ever happen to the gay community seeing as now they're all going to come out to vote for their own proposition next year and get all their rights and then some. Right, wrong, how about just what's easy? The gay community knows what it has to do.
I'll vote however they tell me to, but I think my protesting days will be better spent studying for myself from now on.