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Dancing with Ellen in the Aisles of JCPenney

I had lunch with a friend a few weeks ago. She was struggling with legal difficulties years after an adoption, with health insurance woes because of a budget-cut job loss a year ago, with money hemorrhaging everywhere. Problems many of us have, but in her case each of those particular problems wouldn't exist if her female partner (a stoic, strong, hardworking, cute medical professional who bakes Alaskans, could lift a truck off of your chest and who's got moves like Jagger) were a man and therefore someone my friend could legally marry in Florida. Alas, no marriage = no two-parent adoption, no family health benefits for her and their child during the job loss, extra legal troubles, less money.

"I'm just so tired, you know, of always proving something, fighting some unfairness, and making up for the gap." she said. "It's just exhausting."

And then we talked about the Republican primaries, and our deep, deep fears for our country. For losing or halting the gains we've made. How we felt ashamed to only give money to advocacy groups who fight our good fight, that we knew we should be campaigning. Or doing something. Something more.

And then we decided we were tired again.

We aren't supposed to talk about this outside of cone of silence, but trying to put handles on the strain of oppression is impossible, the enormity is incomprehensible. Sure, gay folk are fabulous, and we hold our heads up because if we don't RuPaul will slap our knuckle and we'll remember Stonewall and we get a grip. 

But truthfully, it is exhausting to always fight, to be on guard, to push ever onward, to bridge the gap, to make it better for others even if we've been underresourced ourselves, to save teenagers from suicide and soldiers/teachers/scouts/ministers/workers of all kinds from closets and California from H8 not to mention all the other states and the entire world from Santorum et al fearmongering themselves into leading the Free World into a regressive hell and to get orphans into homes (yes, wonderful homes with two moms or two dads who will love them forever), to boycott the companies that support the hate machines, and to educate and represent and be out so people (even our own families of origin, if they still speak to us) can see we are just like them, and to hold on to our tender, hard won relationships despite all of this pressure, and, many ands... and to shield all of us, all of us from bigots somehow co-opting both religion and American politics on the issue of our right to marry.

It's exhausting to feel the crushing whole of all of this and all that we are denied.

So we don't look at it all at one time, we band together and we keep moving. We are grateful for our gains. For our allies--because that's where the power truly lies. For the fundamental goodness of people who are working, in their own lifetimes, to keep up with and advance the social acceptance that supports legal change. We are hopeful that America's intelligence and principles of freedom and justice for all will triumph. We have pride, pride that would make you cry with its flamboyant beauty, compassion and fierce human joy.

And. It's exhausting.

So we wrap our hands around coffee cups, around each other's arms, and when we whisper that we are tired, we tell each other it's getting better.

We remind ourselves of this (it's just a matter of time, it's just a matter of time) when it still seems so hard, so unfair. When lives are lost and still closeted and denied. When the world is hateful or regressive or ignorant or wrong. When we aren't included or our voices are ignored. When we are tired. It's getting better.

I think that's why it is so uplifting to celebrate the way that the Girl Scouts decided to push back against gender oppression. The way that JCPenney didn't buckle to pressured requests from a bigoted advocacy group to fire Ellen as their spokesperson. When these things happen we see someone get to stay instead of being told to leave. Symbolically, we see standing up/standing by/standing bullies down. We see the incremental gains manifest in one everyday story of afterschool activities or weekend shopping trips for new underwear. These huge, complex issues fought over decades somehow have handles on them, and the leverage is such a lovely relief.

And maybe this is the most important thing: seeing JCP deny the bigoted pressure gives us hope that maybe others will co-sign that the hate groups aren't speaking for the majority, that they won't ruin this country by hypnotizing it with fear from the spinning eyes of regressive right wingers fueled by their crispy Christian-in-name-only chicken nugget money.

The nice thing, the deep breath thing, is just for just a minute, for one news cycle, it looks like instead of fighting/boycotting/educating/advocating/mourning loss/despairing for our country, we can do something so much easier. We can dance with Ellen. Just like her everyday audience of so many straight moms (because Ellen pulls the milf moms, hell yes she does.) We can all dance with Ellen in the aisles of JCP.

For just one commercial-break song, we can dance with our allies and take a tiny break while still moving forward. It's not a huge thing. It's not a hard thing, not at all. It's not an earth-shattering gain. However, it's a grand relief to get to cheer on something good instead of fighting something hateful.

We'll take it. And then we'll get back to work together.

We'll dance and in our own symbolic act, we'll shop at JCP. This Sunday, in fact.  I'm hoping to find a life-sized cutout of Ellen, and I'm bringing my boombox, and we'll dance. I hope my friend can come. She probably needs to dance even more than she needs coffee and assurances. Not as much as she needs the right to marry, adopt, and live a life free from oppression and the Republican party, but still, if gay people know anything it's that sometimes, the most important thing you can do is dance.  Let's go ahead and let ourselves have this one little song.


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Reader Comments (36)

i'm headed to jcp this sunday.

February 10, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermelissa

I'll be at JCP on Sunday to dance with you!

February 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFireMom

I have ALWAYS loved JCPenney; now I love them even more. Going Sunday!

February 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMelisa

Oops, I mean JCP. Old habits die hard. :)

February 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMelisa

I'll be at JCP on Sunday, maybe do a little dancing' too.

February 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTara R.

Hell, YES!! You go, girl. Dance your ass off. I would join you - but you don't want to see me dance. seriously. Fat old man don't got no moves no mo'. But I'm on your side. I'll watch you dance and revel in your right to do so.

February 10, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterlceel

You said it: "the hate groups aren't speaking for the majority." And this is the first time that I can remember where all of the USA is being made aware of that fact in one simple to understand situation. While I think that the whole thing is ridiculous, I'm hoping that it opens people's eyes to how small and warped these detractors really are.

February 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlly Bean

So awesome. Tears.

February 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJulie Cole

dancin' just reading this post. fantastic!

February 10, 2012 | Unregistered Commenternic @mybottlesup

Will absolutely dance with you at a JC Penneys this Sunday. Sounds like a perfect opportunity to buy my new workout clothes and send a strong message of thanks to people who stand up to hate. And to take along the kids because it's a great teaching opportunity. They always hear me talk about the places we won't shop or things we won't do since they go against our ethics, so it's nice to be able to also show them that there are things we do to support people who are inclusive.

February 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMel

Nothing but this could get me to JC Penney. love you.

February 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarinka

Great post, and I feel deeply for my American friends. Not that it's all that much better in Canada, where the gains that have been made are threatened daily by our conservative majority.

You guys gotta get people out to vote - it's the only way.

February 10, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkarengreeners

Well said. It is exhausting but it is getting better. You'll find me dancing in the aisles on Sunday too! Jim

February 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJim Joseph

I'll be there, I'm taking the kids, and we'll talk and dance.

February 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSherry Carr-Smith

I haven't shopped at JCP in years, but I will be there on Sunday.

February 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

I tend to focus more on the policy battles and the gains or losses that result from those. This is such a great reminder to pay attention to and celebrate the smaller victories, the social ones, that can have a cumulative effect on those policy battles.

February 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJulie Marsh

Great post, Deb. I'm not going to be in town this Sunday, but I'll try to find a JCP near me. I'm not sure about the dancing, though. I think I broke my booty Zumba-ing yesterday.

February 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSuebob

I took a deep sigh. I am on the side of this dance as I adore my sister. She is one of the most fabulous people I know. Florida wa sunforgiving during her divorce because her new partner was female.

But she is so very happy, her partner makes my sister glow and twirl. They are a good solid down to earth hard working couple.

And I sigh and sway a bit with Ellen, my sister deserves every right I have. I am married and have sufffered none of the exhaustion of this civil rights battle. And that is exactly what it is, a civil rights battle. So I am learning the steps of the dance so I can support my sister and sister in law.

All of us need to help make the dance universal, Everyone deserves equal treatment under the law. Everyone deseserves to right to dance!

February 10, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteraunt b

I just fucking love you, and I don't mean that in the stupid internet way. I love you, heart and soul, the way you fight for people who don't realize or can't acknowledge that you are fighting for *them*, and if I could Ru Paul smack my people (who, really, aren't my people at all) you know that I would.

I find that in most of all of the everything of life, the loudest are never, ever the majority, they are simply the ones who are most afraid. Luckily, people like you, and people like Ellen, and people like me and the dude who runs JCP, we are all starting to get really, truly afraid, too. And we're getting louder.

I will always be loud by your side. Pinky swears and shit.

February 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMr Lady

dance, baby, dance.

February 10, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkalisa

Its a hard thing to comprehend, when you've lived in a position of heteronormal privilege your entire life, what life is like for someone who hasn't. Although I've never understood why people feel it necessary to hate, I've also never understood what it is like to be in love with someone you're not allowed to marry, to have a relationship that some people insist is sinful and wrong, to not have the same rights as a parent or a partner. To have to be careful what you say and how you say it and who you say it in front of. So I take your word for it, and the words of every other person that *has* lived those experiences, and I stand for you and with you.

I am not a fan of big commercialism, and as I said over at Neil's, I think JCP will gain financially from this situation simply because there is a large and vocal majority who will support Ellen and go put their money in the JCP coffers on Sunday. But I'll still go, I'll find something I might sort of need to buy, because even symbolic gestures still have meaning. And just maybe JCP will do something with that extra cash, like donate to PFLAG or GLAAD or Freedom to Marry or any one of the many organizations that are in the trenches fighting for rights, for understanding and for acceptance. Just maybe.

Love your writing. You're not doing it enough.

February 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBarnmaven

Your words are perfection.

Here is to dancing in the aisles at JCP.

And, the wedding celebrations of ALL people in all love.

February 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTiffany

My best friend's partner says, "I just want people to not give a shit about my orientation."
Apathy is a word that people view as negative, for the most part. Orientation-apathy, though, would be a grand and positive thing.

Here's to people not giving a shit about whose hand you hold, Deb. Here's to dancing with those people in a dive bar with a band whose too-young lead singer lets his disaffected air get in the way of real and true soul. >:o)

Here's to more people dancing, yes. Here's to ALL the people dancing. I love you, my sweet friend, you laugher and giver of self and hugger and sparkly-eyed peaceful porch-sitter.

February 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJett

AMEN. If I don't make it on Sunday, I will at least be dancing and thinking about it!

February 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarta

I will gladly dance in the aisles with you. In fact, dancing with you at TypeAMom and Blogher was one of my greatest joys.

February 10, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterilinap

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