Hard: Of Hearing

Tuesday was hard. It was hard for me, it was hard for all of us at Fair Wisconsin and Center Advocates, and I’m sure it was hard for every single person who stayed more than five minutes in the hearing room.

Through the nine hours of testimony I felt like I was alternately being reassured and kicked in the stomach. Then reassured. Then kicked in the stomach. Three minutes at a time.

It was hard to watch Al fight back tears while reflecting on the fact that his partner often doesn’t have the legal right to do something as basic as signing a permission slip for their three children. It was hard to imagine Richard & Ray worrying about caring for each other as they age. And it was especially hard to sit with the image of Michael peering through the hospital room window watching his partner die. “His guts were all over me,” he shared, recounting witnessing his own partner getting shot.

It was hard to hear, “it’s absurd to say everybody should be treated equally.” It was hard to listen to a woman believe all that gay parents need to legally protect their children is a hand-written note. It was hard to feel hated, immoral, despised, demonized, akin to a child molester, polygamist, pornographer. And it was hard to feel like half of the people in the room thought I would make a terrible, disgusting mother.

But I was expecting all of that.

What I wasn’t expecting was this. I felt afraid. Or maybe I just felt vulnerable. Or maybe it was nerves, or excitement, or exhaustion, but whatever it was, I felt it in my stomach and I felt it pushing at the back of my throat. And I have been on the verge of tears since 9:30 that morning.

For the first five hours of the hearing, I stood, video-taping the testimony. I stood beside a woman my age who wore a warm smile and a great pair of heels. She was sitting at the end of the row, with her testimony in her lap, and she kindly helped me make sure no one tripped over the cord to my camera. But besides the smile and heels, she also wore a sticker that told me she was voting for the amendment. And this made my stomach flip.

I wasn’t afraid of being physically assaulted or verbally attacked by her or anyone in the room. The truth is, for the most part everyone there-- on both sides of the issue-- was a “nice person,” working to make Wisconsin a state they want to live in. I have never been afraid of the "fag"-hating sign toters or the outspoken fanatics. But walking into that hearing room, down the hall lined with people signing up to testify, I suddenly felt like I was in a battle zone and I didn’t know who was my opponent and who was my friend. The amendment, and all of its implications, was alive in that room, and even though I think about this amendment every day of the week, all hours of the day, it felt heavier, darker, and more real than it ever had before.

And that was hard. And it is hard. And it will continue to be hard long after this campaign is over. It’s hard to come out, it’s hard to be out, it’s often hard to speak out. But I’m thankful that that I have a supportive family, loving friends, a wonderful partner, fabulous co-workers, and many, many brave strangers with me at my side. Because it makes it all at least a little bit easier.


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3 Comments:

At 2:39 PM, Anonymous Erin Roberts, MSW said...

Ingird,

Thank you for writing that blog. I wasn't able to stay and testify and didn't sit in that room for even a minute. I did however walk down that aisle looking at stickers, pins, any indication that helped me identify those that look to shun my marriage and those that wish to celebrate and fight for it. I too felt like I was in a battle zone. I also listened to the hearings at work online all day and identify with the ups and downs of the alternating stories. It was exhausting just listening. I remember sitting in the Michigan House of Representatives while they debated the Michigan Constitution Ban on Gay Marriage and how tired I was after a few hours of that. You wrote about those feelings so well. Thank you, all Action Wisconsin Staff, and Center Advocates for all you are doing to fight for my family!

 
At 4:46 PM, Anonymous neenahchick said...

as a former wisconsinite (not forever though) im sad to hear of such opposition to what should be a no-brainer.

my thoughts are with you all. i hope when me and my family move back we will encounter less prejudice and more acceptance of people of the different backgrounds that we all have.

keep up the good work!

rachel

 
At 5:48 PM, Anonymous Coleman said...

Ingrid,

You expressed exactly what i've been feeling after sitting through the entire day of testimony. I feel violated, bruised and battered, even though all they used were lies and words. But their lies and words threaten my family. That threat is more real to me now than it ever was before, and it is difficult to know what to do with that knowledge.

 

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