Great Trip North: Part IV - Eau Claire

Twelve years ago today I celebrated my 20th birthday here in Eau Claire. At the time I hadn’t declared my major, or voted in a presidential election, and I certainly wasn’t about to embrace being a lesbian. I was one of those college kids itching to move away from Wisconsin, convinced that there was a bigger and better world for me somewhere else. In a way, I suppose there was— after graduating from UWEC with a degree in Journalism, I moved to Baltimore and met my partner, became a homeowner, earned a graduate degree, and settled into myself.

Today is the fourth day of our “Great Trip North,” and the road signs for all points in Wisconsin still startle me. I have been back in Wisconsin for two years now, but sometimes I forget where I am.

eau claireAnd I don’t mean that in just a physical sense. I wish I could articulate exactly what it feels like for me to be sitting here at Racy D’Lene’s Very Coffee Lounge (my old, very regular hangout) on my 32nd birthday getting ready for today’s meetings and tonight’s Speakers Training event. Looking around the coffee shop, it feels that little has changed in the past ten years except the art on the wall and me. When I was a student here the most political thing I did was read the newspaper.

Now, it’s crazy to me that I am an out and proud lesbian, working full-time on an LGBT issue that is deeply personal and that directly affects hundreds of hard-working, tax-paying, God-loving families in the state I once so badly wanted to leave. I realize more and more what a beautiful state Wisconsin is and what beautiful LGBT people live here. I feel incredibly privileged to have a second chance in this state—this time with a purpose and a greater sense of self.

When we were in Superior, Dennis Kempton, a columnist for the Reader Weekly, asked me what it was like traveling around the state talking to people about the amendment. Unfortunately, once again, I couldn’t quite articulate the answer (and yes, I am the “communications” associate around here). The answer was too big for me to get from my brain and out my mouth. I felt the lump in my throat and fought to hold back any tears—which I almost did. But couldn’t quite.

The answer, not so eloquently stated is, it feels great. I am so proud to be from Wisconsin, and even prouder to be embarking on this uphill battle to defeat the proposed amendment that would ban civil unions and marriage for me and my partner and for a heck of a lot of other people in who live here with me.

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