On the Jewish high holiday of Passover, children kick off the Seder (think dinner theatre for Yahweh), by asking Why is this day different from all other days? It’s a rhetorical question: there are answers printed in a book, so that parents can pass something along from generation to generation. The dinner that follows answers the question: gather around the book; sing, dance, tell the story. We fought back, we wandered, we found Zion, we’re still lost. Today is different from all other days because we did that, and because we celebrate it, and because we know we’re still wandering.
As queers, our great possibility and great tragedy is that we’re born everywhere, to everyone. We metastacize. 1/3 of us died in the 1980s, murderously neglected by the state, but more of us were born. We’re unkillable. But we also have no way to pass our histories on; or at least, our methods are more strained. Grandma doesn’t tell you, every year sitting around the Haggadah, about the brave brave trans* women who fought back because they had nothing to lose, about the Stonewall and Compton Cafeteria rebellions, about the Mattachine society, about Karl Ulrichs and Magnus Hirschfeld, Silvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, the Eisenhower-era butches, the gay men in suits with signs, the commie dreamers in the Hollywood Hills, the thousands and thousands and thousands who wasted away and died, whose families having disowned them in life made their partners destitute by claiming all their property in death. We don’t learn that, except from each other, in small fitful doses. The tornado-path-like line of destruction left by AIDS split generation from generation and massacred much of that story. Every day, more people die; their unthinking families throw journals, film negatives, books, posters into black plastic trash bags, and it’s lost.
I’m struggling with complicated feelings today – great joy at the rights won by some, disinterest and distaste in the institution of marriage, regret that it overtook so many worthier causes as the definitional ‘gay rights struggle,’ sadness and solidarity for the trans* women who are still murdered and locked in detention centers and incarcerated, overwhelming tears of happiness at the words “EQUAL DIGNITY” written across the front of today’s Times I bought to save, fear as I watch our institutions close and histories die, disinterest in normalcy, deep deep desire for normalcy, distrust of normalcy, anger at the knowledge that too many do not have the luxury of wondering whether they wish to choose normalcy for themselves or not.
So why is this day different from all other days?
We’re still wandering, still lost, still unwhole. Marriage will not make us free. Nor will anything else. It’s this mix of love and hope and melancholy I’m choosing to live in today. Decorating my tank top for pride yesterday at work, watching the President eulogize yet another Black man murdered by societally-condoned racist terrorism, I wrote these words without thinking much: “LOVE RULES (one of many celebratory post-marriage decision slogans)…but people still die, murdered by police, bigotry, kyriarchy. STAY ANGRY until ALL have justice.”
I hope we who can choose normalcy will choose instead to stay angry, to recognize that we’re still lost as hell, to find some chosen family with whom to fight, to sing, to dance, to tell the story: we fought back, we wandered, we found something, we’re still lost.