It must be so hard, Barack. I know you probably crawl into bed next to Michelle, after brushing your lips across your daughters’ foreheads and pulling the covers closer to their sweet chins, and know how lucky you are that your marriage is respected in this country. You wrap your arms around her waist, remembering your wedding day, how lovely she looked, and how gloriously her bursting heart shown through her eyes. How your ancestors and community lifted you up to the world – you are a married couple! – and everything fell into place and fell apart all at once as you tried to make sense of what it meant to be married. You tried to set aside what you thought it meant to be a husband to make room to create what it meant for you to be a husband to Michelle. You had democratic discussions about who would do the dishes and who would fold the laundry. You fell out of lust, struggled together, and fell back between the sheets even happier than you were before.
I know you think these things, because you are a human being – and I can tell by your persona, even on TV, even through the camera lenses and the makeup and the photoshopping and the scripts, that you have a good heart. I think you probably want the best for the world, like most people do. Maybe that’s what I want to believe.
I know you have strings stitched to your lips, tugged by thugs and thieves with agendas that you probably don’t really believe in, if you dare to really think about them. Agendas like reaping the profits of big oil by raping the earth and so many voiceless people. Like keeping women in their place by pretending that God gives a shit about birth control and that domestic rape is a myth and that abortion is a man’s choice to make in a congressional hearing. Agendas like slashing the foodstamp budget and funneling the funds into the military-industrial complex, and pretend that everyone actually has access to healthcare and good wages, that most of us just don’t choose to fulfill those basic human needs.
I know you don’t mean to endorse these evils. I know you spend a few minutes each evening pulling marionette strings out of your body with pliers, like the sinewy stitches from a bad cut: snip, tug; snip, tug. You coil the strings into a little tin on the medicine cabinet, step into the shower, wash the day off your tired body with that aloe-almond body wash your kids gave you for father’s day last year.
You haven’t fooled me, Barack, you can tell those puppeteers that they failed, this time, again. It’s convenient, to endorse gay marriage so close to the election season. You should have done it last year, or waited until after November came and went – I might have had a chance at believing it. Not likely though. You’ve got to tell those guys, the ones who thread those strings back into your skin each morning, that they’ve gotta start to act a little more convincing.
Because, Barack, an endorsement does nothing for me. When I wrap my arms around her waist at night, I can think ahead to our wedding day, imagine how lovely she will look, and how gloriously her bursting heart will shine through her eyes, but I know that in most places in this country, we will be no more than roommates. While my ancestors and community will lift us up to the world – you are a married couple! – my country won’t care. When everything falls into place and apart all at once, and I try to make sense of what it means to be a wife, and what it means to be married to her, and as we fall out of lust and back between the sheets with more fulfilled happiness, as we democratically decide on who will weed the kale and who will take the dog out to pee, the government I voted for four years ago will stand by and laugh. Best of friends! they will say. Roommates. And roommates can’t file taxes together or be assured that if one fell deathly ill, the other would be allowed to sit at her bedside in the hospital and whisper “I love you” until she recovered – or died – because the state we happen to be in at the time doesn’t recognize me as her family. What if I were not to be able to spend the last minutes of her life with her?
And when I will go to kiss my children on their foreheads, Barack, I will have to fight to keep the fear at bay. Will we ever be able to travel out of New England, without constant terror that our family will not be honored? Have you ever felt this way, Barack, this dread that something so wonderful as having children with the one you love could be so terrifying – not because you won’t know how to teach them to love, not because you won’t be able to keep them safe from drugs or bullies, not because you won’t know what to say, but because someone with power over you might look at you and decide that you are not their parent, that your family isn’t real enough for their standards?
I hope you said that you endorse our right to marry because you believe in this right. I hope you yanked the strings out of your knuckles and muscles and just said something real for once. But I won’t believe you didn’t do it just because they told you to, in order to win their election to protect their interests, until I can sign the papers with my wife and your offices will see them as the truth: that we are married to each other.
Don’t worry, you can rest well at night, with your arms around your Michelle: marriage equality will come to pass. In my humble opinion, however, it will not happen with you in the oval office. It won’t happen in your office at all, even. In fact, I don’t think it will happen in the United States government. Because revolution is not just a whisper anymore, Barack. It’s a truth that whistles past your ear when you hang your head out the window like a dog in the summertime. Take in the wind, let it rustle the crisp seams of your well-pressed shirt. Snuggle closer to your wife. I hope you feel you’ve done the best you can, because your time is up. All y’alls time is up. It’s our turn. It’s time to take back the nights, take back the streets and the squares, take back our currency, take back our bedrooms and our uteruses and our families. It’s time.