This is a story about a much younger Eneasz. One who was very naïve, had a lot of unexamined assumptions, and who has beliefs that are significantly different from my own. I won’t bother apologizing for him, because he’s long gone. I don’t know if the world is better or worse for that.
I grew up political. My family watched the nightly news together. We watched one-hour news programs as family events from at least my tween years.
I had very different views from my parents. They raised me in a conservative Christian religion, and held to its tenants. Atheism was evil. So were gays. When I came out as an atheist at fifteen, my mother didn’t speak to me for three days.
Once I was out of the house, I was mildly politically active. I was poor, with a menial office job paying not much over minimum wage, so I didn’t have a lot of time and energy for activism. But I did what I could. I argued with people, I fought in the online spaces (easier to access them during work hours at my office job), I occasionally went to marches. I felt camaraderie with my fellow atheists and social justice warriors. We were making the world a better place.
Proposition 8 was a bill that went to the public for a general vote in California in 2008, which banned gay marriage. It was called Proposition Hate by everyone on the left. It was plainly evil. Fortunately it was going to a popular vote in California, at the same time that Obama was swooping in for his landmark election win. There is no way it would pass.
Not only did it pass, but it passed with 70-75% of the Black vote in California (reported at the time).
I was devastated by this. I saw it as a stark betrayal. All these years, I had thought that all us minorities were in this together. My community of queers and liberals had canvassed, marched, and protested, for all of our allies. We marched for women. We canvassed for black and hispanic residents. We protested for gay rights. I had put more personal time into this election than any prior. Most of our objectives were reached. Obama had been elected president. And then, the black voters of California stabbed us queers in the back.
I felt so… used.
This was very stupid of me, of course. No individual voter in California owes me a damn thing. The “black population” of California certainly doesn’t “owe” the queer population anything! It was racist to even think that they did. There had never been any sort of alliance, all of it had been pure projections on my part. Just my delusion that we were together because I viewed us all as “the minorities” that were fighting back against “the patriarchy.” It was quasi-racist to have that feeling of entitlement to someone else’s votes.
I posted about my hurt on the activist forums I was part of back then, and I was comforted by them. I was reassured that we fought for the rights of all minorities not because we expected anything in return from other minorities, but simply because it was the right thing to do. It wasn’t even a betrayal. It was the smallest of misalignments, and yes it sucked and it hurt, but I’d been too naive and silly in my expectations. The fight is long, and it is fought because it must be fought.
And yet, it was my first hint that the language used to unite us wasn’t truthful. We are not “allies” in any real sense. We are only co-combatants currently on the same side by happenstance. I wasn’t about to leave my community over what voters on the other side of the nation did. There were millions of them, and they had nothing to do with me. They didn’t even know I existed for chrissake! I fought on.
I guess I wasn’t that surprised when, almost a decade later, they came for me when I refused to repeat some of the insane slogans that were demanded of me to prove my purity. It still hurt, when the final rejection came. But I had been prepared by that first, smallest, disillusionment. I never had allies in the movement. I only had utility to others, and eventually that ran out.
There is no loyalty within cultural movements. There is only the conviction that you need to keep doing what is right. So don’t ever despoil your principles to buy loyalty from people that you don’t have personal relationships with outside of the movement. The loyalty doesn’t exist, you’ll be degrading your integrity for nothing.
Ask not what you can contribute toward social progress. Ask what social progress can do for you. Well thanks for explaining yourself.