A Both/And Kind of Love
Both/and can be hard. It’s difficult to feel two emotions at once, to hold two positions at once, to affirm multiple realities at once. But if anyone can do it, I believe that UUs can.
Friday June 26th 2015 was surely a both/and day.
It was both the day that the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) guaranteed the rights of same-sex couples to have their marriages legally recognized in all fifty states and it was the day of Rev. Clementa Pinckney’s funeral. A day of celebration and of mourning.
That day I woke up to a text from my UU mom, married to my dad for 34 years, saying “Marriage equality across the land!!!” followed by a series of colorful hearts and thumbs up emojis because my mom is one hip baby boomer.
This text made me really happy. I thought about all the people who finally had the rights they had been denied simply because their love made others uncomfortable. I thought about how my parents raised me UU, in a denomination where lots of people were fighting for marriage equality way before it was cool. I thought about our own Hillary Goodridge of Goodridge v. Dept of Public Health, the case in Massachusetts that paved the way for my current state of residence to be the first to honor same sex marriages in 2004.
I felt profound gratitude for my people who had fought hard, and to be honest I also felt skeptical about what a marriage equality win means in the broader struggle for queer liberation and for the liberation of all oppressed people. I immediately texted my (non-UU) best friend to ask how she felt about the SCOTUS ruling. She’s a queer identified lesbian who has been out since she was 16 and a generally activist-oriented person so I thought she’d have some feelings. She responded “I’m feeling like the marriage equality thing exposes the racism and rift in our country’s neo-liberalism… Am I a bummer or what…”
Total bummer. But in all seriousness I share her concerns. The marriage equality victory itself feels like a both/and to me. It is a testament to the fact that #lovewins and the result of so much hard work, so many local victories and temporary defeats, and the determination of folks who wouldn’t give up even when they were faced with hatred and ridicule. And this legal victory is also a demonstration that love certainly wins more easily in our country when it doesn’t mess with our capitalist system or our respectability politics. That is, weddings make money, are good for business and fit with mainstream American ideals about romantic love, family and adulthood. So what about the fights that DO mess with capitalism and are not as respectable?
I loved being at UUA General Assembly on that Friday because I felt that both/and in our gathering. We rightly celebrated our butts off with music and worship and same sex couples up on stage, with dancing and more music and inspiring toasts. We also repeatedly acknowledged that queer liberation depends on so much more than the right to legally marry. That homelessness and suicide are still rampant among queer youth, especially trans youth. That trans women, especially trans women of color, still get murdered at alarming rates. That there is much work we will still certainly do for LGBT people and all oppressed people.
Youth leader Kara Marler moved many to tears as she shared her heartfelt gratitude at the evening celebration on Friday for the hard work folks had done to make her feel safe when she came out, for the love that had been passed on to her. And in the both/and spirit she promised "You have walked many miles, I have walked a few, and I am ready to run many more."
(Watch Karla's toast here)
I know it can be hard for folks to hold the both/and. For some folks Friday needed to be a day of pure unadulterated celebration and respite because this was their fight and they had been at it for a long time, possibly longer than I’ve been alive. I support that. For some folks Friday needed to be a day of mourning lives lost to terrorism, racism, transphobia and other evils, a day of recommitting to the struggle for an even bigger liberation - and I support that too.
For me, it was a both/and day. I’m a straight-married queer lady so I already had the privilege of a legally recognized marriage, though I rejoice in the increased acceptance for queerness in our society. I benefit from jointly filed taxes and my spouse being on my health insurance and am so relieved that ALL married couples now share these benefits. I also dream of the day when all people - single, partnered, married, poly, or living in some other intentional ethical family arrangement - have stable financial situations and truly affordable health care.
When I was a kid my favorite aunt got married at my UU church when it wasn’t even a little bit legal in my home state of Illinois. Now her marriage is recognized in all fifty states. When I was a kid I learned that racist acts like attacking black churches happened in the past, but here we are in the aftermath of the shooting in Charleston at the AME church and the burning of black churches in 2015. We are moving forward in amazing, life-changing ways in this country and we are also repeating the sins that are deeply embedded in our systems. Both/and for sure.
I’m glad to be a part of this both/and faith where we hold complexities and stand on the side of love for marriage equality, for immigrant families, for black lives, and for the survival of our very planet and all who live here. I’m glad to be a part of a movement where we work hard for equality and celebrate our victories and never lose sight of the path that leads on, on to more love, more liberation, an even deeper expression of the beloved community. May love win again and again and again.