Saturday, November 10, 2012

Election night, Seattle style

Confession: I wasted next to no energy on the Presidential election this year. Without really “going there,” all I have to say is that neither of the two main candidates really represented me. I also knew that my vote didn’t really count. Throw every slogan about rocking the effing vote in the world at me. I know how the Electoral College works and I know what my West Coast status means.

So, rather than get looped into all the negativity and bullshit, I chose to focus on something I wanted to see happen rather than what I didn’t want. I chose to focus on something local and positive. For me that issue was a no-brainer: Referendum 74.

People say that social issues like gay rights should be second tier to issues like the economy and balancing the deficit. Those people are right. But the thing is, I personally can’t do anything about our deficit. But what I can do… and what I did do… is vow to help right one wrong in our society. It might seem like a small issue to some, but for a gay person in a long-term relationship who desperately wants the same right for his or her partner as we get for ours, it’s huge.

It’s like that analogy with all the starfish that have washed up onto the shore, and that dude is throwing them back, one at a time, and the other dude tells him it won’t make a difference, and he insists, “It made a difference to that one!”

In 2012, the gays were my starfish.

Referendum 74 was something I could focus on, a way I could make a difference. And I did. I donated. I went to Wicked on the night when ticket proceeds went to the cause. I convinced people to register to vote locally. I broke my “no political talk on Facebook” rule and championed for the cause because to me, it wasn’t politics… it was human rights. I even wrote a very difficult letter to my parents, who I know are of the “it’s a sin” mentality, and begged them to consider voting yes. That was hard as hell.

Admittedly, I was also extremely curious about I 502. Anyone who has done the most minuscule amount of research knows that it’s absolutely asinine that marijuana is illegal (seriously, the facts speak for themselves). But I also knew the bill was flawed enough (the DUI policy is absurd) that people might not vote for it. But to me, any legalization step is a step in the right direction.

When Tuesday arrived, Mr. W and I agreed that we should be out on the hill, aka Seattle’s gay Mecca, to hear the results. We didn’t have a set plan, we just figured we’d head down the hill after dinner and find a bar to hang out in. I had just gotten home from work and had a quick dinner when it was announced that Obama had won Ohio, securing his re-election.

“Let’s get out there, now, before they start reading the local results!” I said, slipping on my flats and throwing on a coat and scarf. We rushed down Pine. It was packed.

“Whoo, Obama!” a girl shouted at me as I passed her.

“Yes, we are aware of Obama,” I said back. “But what do we know about the gays and the weed?”

We went to R Place, a prominent gay bar on the hill that was filled to the brim with happy people. We rushed from bar to bar, finding nothing but crowds. I always imagined Capitol Hill would be a magical place to be on election night. This is true, until you try to get a drink there.

At last we settled on Neighbors, where we stayed long enough to see that Referendum 74 had a narrow lead and I 502 was leading by a lot. Eventually someone got on the mic and announced that Maine had passed a marriage equality bill into law. We cheered. I looked up at the TV and saw that Referendum 74’s lead was growing by the minute.

“Holy shit,” I told Mr. W. “I think we’re actually going to make history. Twice.”

The Capitol Hill Blog had mentioned a dance party at 10th and Pike. We wanted in on that. We made a quick pit stop at a store for little airplane bottles of vodka, which we chugged in the parking lot next to a news station’s camera crew since seriously, you could not get a damn drink anywhere. It was a rather unforgettable election night memory, to say the least.

The dance party was just getting started when we showed up at 10 PM, but it was already lively. People were passing around bottles of champagne and the sweet smell of victory joints permeated the air. Two young gay men performed a topless victory dance on a pillar. Electronic music played, and people danced freely. Everyone was smiling. No one was giving the cops, who looked bored, or each other one bit of trouble. It was the epitome of a right wing nightmare.

We met up with our awesome friend Erica and her adorable roommate Jared. We heard they’d declared I 502 an official victory and that Referendum 74 was all but in the bag. I looked around at the dance party and saw so many happy same sex couples. I smiled, trying to imagine what it must feel like to finally have their love be recognized as real and valid. I thought I might cry. After all, for the first time in my life, I truly felt that I had made a difference on an issue that really mattered to me.

We headed to Barca for celebratory tequila shots, where I un-quit tequila for at least the 4th time this year. In the background, Obama’s speech played. When he got to the part about “gay or straight,” everyone in the bar erupted into a cheer and our little posse formed a tequila-infused group hug. Again, I thought I might cry, but all I could do was smile.

Then we realized we all had to work the next morning and went home. It was a whirlwind of epic moments and I am so grateful to have been a part of it.

It was only the next morning, when I was finishing my pre-work coffee, that I finally got emotional. I hadn’t planned on asking my parents how they voted on Referendum 74.  I became so passionate about the issue that I was afraid of how I’d react if they told me they voted no. So when my Dad texted me to tell me he voted yes, I promptly burst into tears and sat on my kitchen floor crying and smiling at the same time.

I do care about the big issues that face our country today. But more than anything else, I want everyone to feel welcome here. I want everyone to be able to have the choice to live as they see fit, whether that means going to a Catholic church on Sunday morning or smoking a Sunday morning joint in bed. And I am so happy and so proud to live in a state that, for the most part, seems to agree.

The country has a lot to figure out. But here in my beloved Emerald City, we seem to be doing just fine. 

Photo by Jay Clark

These are some great photos from election night.

This will make me laugh and laugh forever and ever, amen.


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