Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Health Care, Black Holes and Baby Dykes

By Kelly Jean Cogswell

The world might be coming to an end. Not just because the Large Hadron Collider is back in action, or was, accelerating particles in 17 miles of track and potentially generating teensy-weensy black holes capable of swallowing up the earth in a single gulp, but because Obama actually got that health care reform bill passed.

I'd jump up and down and throw a party except I'm still a little miffed at whoever's bright idea it was to get fence-sitting Democrats on board by promising an Executive Order banning federal funding of abortion health care services. Keep the pompoms in the closet when poor women are getting screwed again.

Then there's the ongoing stranglehold of insurance companies brought in to lobby from the very start behind closed White House doors. I haven't forgotten that either. But as they say, better something than nothing in terms of health reform. It's a start. Things can be improved later. Though this Pablum would be considerably more believable if the Democrats had a backbone made of steel, rather than Silly Putty.

If I'm satisfied at all it's because a defeat would have given the Tea Party folks a whomping burst of momentum and shoved the Obama administration even further into the quicksand of caution and bipartisanship (cowardice, endless concessions) pretty much dooming to failure all his promises of change. I never really believed them, but what the heck? I can hope with the best of them.

What has impressed me lately is how in the midst of the hoo-ha about health care reform, the rest of the Obama administration managed to function at all. There were two wars to think about, Israel to chide, and they actually negotiated a treaty with Russia to reduce nukes. Obama will probably face much bigger hurdles than the ex-commies when it comes to getting the treaty approved. Right-wing Democrats and Republican politicians will no doubt continue to say No to everything like a bunch of terrible two-year-olds with a load in their pants.

I was also surprised to see Obama make a foray to Afghanistan to twist Hamid Karzai's arm in person. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Clinton visited Mexico with half the U.S. government in tow to show a commitment to a state that's been brought practically to its knees by the drug wars. So yes, I'm glad health care reform passed, giving a little oomph to Obama instead of the hateful Tea Party mob, and showing folks his administration can take care of business. If they want to. Or if they're forced into a corner where they have to bare their little rat teeth.

Which raises the question of just what exactly queers would have to do to see some progress on any federal front like Don't Ask Don't Tell or the Defense of Marriage Act. Have a cappuccino or maybe Molotov cocktail party? Stage demonstrations where we foam from the mouth and all behave badly?

Our national organizations don't seem to cut it, especially compared to individual baby dykes in southern states. In Alabama in 2009, Tharptown High School student Cynthia Stewart successfully fought to bring her girlfriend to prom. The school initially decided to cancel its event, but reversed their decision after Stewart's case made headlines.

Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton, Mississippi followed suit, canceling its prom rather than allowing Constance McMillen to wear a tuxedo and arrive with her girlfriend, Ashli Pass, who also goes to Itawamba. Just afterwards McMillen told the Clarion-Ledger: "That's really messed up because the message they are sending is that if they have to let gay people go to prom that they are not going to have one." If only they would do that with marriage.

McMillen was tempted not to return to school because she was afraid everyone was going to hate her, but her family came through. "My daddy told me that I needed to show them that I am still proud of who I am. I want other kids to know that it's not right for schools to do that."

She went to court backed by the ACLU, and last week federal Judge Glen H. Davidson ruled that McMillen’s constitutional rights had been violated. He didn't force the school to hold a prom because parents are organizing one everyone can attend.

While she probably would have preferred a quicker resolution, it's been great seeing McMillen appear in photos with her family and girlfriend. The new faces of lesbian visibility are mighty cute. And if proms are what spur change in the South, I say more power to them.

It's not abstractions like equal rights that get under the skin of most people and force them to act. It's wanting to be like everybody else. Go to proms, get married. There's room for a more radical agenda, but interesting things often start small. With random collisions. Then big bangs.

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