Monday, December 1, 2008

La niña de mis ojos

I rushed home from the university to live the moment on my computer. I planned on YouTubing Obama’s speech as soon as I could lock myself in my room and get on my laptop. On the long ride home, I had been listening to a punk version of "A Change is Gonna Come", thinking it perfect for the occasion. Later, I was delighted to hear him quote the song in his victory speech. "It’s been a long time coming," he bellowed.

And then, in the midst of all the tears of joy and the surreal quality of the night, I kept anxiously refreshing the Los Angeles Times web page for results of the California elections.

I had a headache, but I kept clicking and clicking, getting the most up-to-date results as the minutes went by. Even as I was hearing our president-elect speak in the YouTube video, I couldn’t help but refresh the page. It looked like it was passing, but that was from preliminary results in conservative counties, the web site said. Hope. I clicked again and again until my head hurt so much that I decided to just sleep on it.

In the morning, things were still muddy, but I kept the Internet close. By mid-afternoon however, it was getting clear: voting Californians, well about fifty-two percent of them, had passed the motion that would amend the state’s constitution to define marriage as that which occurs between a man and a woman. That’s when I started to get different feelings about these historic elections.

It was Saturday night after the elections. With the weight of human hate on my shoulders and the thought of comfy chickens, I had a right to be emotionally exhausted. But that was nothing that a good evening spent at my grandmother’s house with all my cousins, aunts and uncles couldn’t wisp away. Yeah.

I was sitting in the living room when my uncle approached me. He got straight to the point.

"What did you vote on Prop 8?"

"What do you think?" I answered him, coolly.

"I think that you voted ‘no’," he replied.

"And you?" I asked, almost reluctantly but unable to refuse his attempt at meaningful conversation.

"I voted ‘yes’ because I do not want my kids to be taught blah, blah, blah, gibberish, blah…" referencing of course, the successful public-schools-will-turn-your-kids-gay-if-this-proposition-does-not-pass television propaganda.

I stared at him for a second. I sighed. I had to try.

"But it’s not going to make them gay. And what’s wrong with that anyway?" I told him.

Then, my other uncle and his wife decided to chime in. That is how, in what seemed like five seconds, a one-on-one discussion turned into a yelling match. Even my mom was trying to help me. After a few minutes of listening to the same circular arguments, I let myself sink into the background. I sat there, sandwiched between these gay-passionate straight folks.

"Gays this! Gays that!"

"Oh, the horror! Fragile little children will get so confused!"

"Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!"

Then, my uncle stopped all conversation, marking a triumphant victory for the haters in the room. Thundering with druggie-turned-apostle-of-Christ wisdom, he turned to look at my mother, who was arguing against him. His forehead vein popping, he challenged her. He asked her the make-it or break-it question:

"¿Pero está bien moralmente? Crees eso en tu corazón?"

And I heard my mother falter. I continued to stare at my lap, at that moment feeling quite detached from the world. I knew better than to hold her accountable for anything. I let them keep talking, keep yelling, keep knowing.

But, I’m not the type to let it stay like that. My patience has its limits and I finally decided to interject. I took a deep breath.

"As a…bi…sexual," I struggled to declare. They turned to look at me. "Bisexual" isn’t even the label I like, but given the audience, I wasn’t too concerned with the technicalities. I did it as a sort of plea for authority on the subject, for respect, for a bit of compassion.

And it only made them listen for a few seconds in momentary discomfort. They smiled smugly, as if I was trying to trick them out of their convictions by presenting worthless evidence. They weren’t fooled by my honesty. They resumed the argument and by then, my face was scrunched and I was crying.

I stood up quickly and retreated to my cousin’s room – I had just come out to my family. For the first time in twenty-two years, they seemed to be complete strangers, arrogant inhibitors of love and progress. I wondered how they could be my lifelong support and joy, and then turn into fiery rhetorical wolves at the passing of a petty law. None of this was about marriage. None of it was about civil rights. It was about allowing advocates of tradition to openly express their otherwise politically incorrect homophobia. They needed to sit me down in the living room and tell me what was up because of course, they were able to vote for it on Tuesday. Their too-often-repressed voices had to be heard! I guess.

I sat on my cousin’s bed sniffling. See, this whole "degenerate" sexuality thing is fairly new to me. I just came out to myself this year. Perhaps that is why I couldn’t handle it like a woman with ovaries. It’s so damn fresh.

I got up to look at myself in my cousin’s makeup mirror. I was crying, but I also did not want my eyeliner to run, which is an excellent thought for subduing tears. Stepping in closer, I looked into the peaceful depth of the blue-shadowed, brown eyes that were staring back at me. Like a clairvoyant, I tried to see the future revealed in my misty eyes.

The thought bit, and I asked the forces that be to show me if there was any way that years from now, I could end up with only a taste for boys. I concentrated and looked in deep, but at that moment, I could only see la niña de mis ojos. ¶

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