I was struck as I sat in front of my computer last night by two very different events - one of them personal, the other national. On the surface they are worlds apart, and yet in my mind they are closely connected.
Santorum's Primary Wins: A Timely Caution
First the personal: There was big news in the Tashlin household yesterday evening. After a great deal of time and work, my primary partner and spouse was given the letter that authorizes him to begin hormone therapy as the next step in his gender transition. It's an exciting milestone, with more to come as the ball really gets rolling. It's wonderful and a bit scary at the same time - exactly as it should be I suppose.
Of course I'd be lying if I said there wasn't a bit of trepidation mixed in with my happiness for him. Our lives aren't exactly what one would call stable, and I've seen how hard on relationships the roller-coaster ride of medical transition can sometimes be. On top of which, my partner put off his transition for several years in no small part because our (now ex) husband couldn't handle it. The role gender identity played in our ex-husband divorcing us was tiny in the grand scheme of what was wrong in our relationship, but it was enough to leave my partner with some deep wounds that have been hard to heal.
Then there's the national story: Yesterday evening Rick Santorum won both the Alabama and Mississippi primaries with a comfortable margin of victory. What's more, he and the equally conservative/scary Newt Gingrich together garnered 64% of the vote in both states according to CNN.com this morning.
It is sobering to even consider. Like a lot of commentators and armchair political quarterbacks, I spent the past - seemingly endless - months of the GOP primary season seeing Rick Santorum as nothing more than the perfect combination punchline/punching bag for Jon Stewart, and the rest of the political humor industry. Even in a race made up of hares who peaked quickly (and often ridiculously, see: Herman Cain), it never would have crossed my mind that Rick Santorum could prove to be the tortoise still plugging along as the race ground onwards.
As a liberal northerner, albeit one living way north, where we like our guns and our gays, I found myself blindsided by this blatant reminder that everything about who I and my family are is anathema to a great many people in this country. Santorum nauseates me, and Gingrich has much the same effect. I quite literally can't listen to them speak much of the time without feeling ill. Perhaps mirroring of how my family would make them feel I suppose.
On the eve of my partner's first major step towards medical transition, I can't shake the knowledge of just how tenuous our place in American society really is. As queer/LGBT people, particularly of non-Abrahamic faith, the truth is that a great many of our countrymen and women would prefer to see us gone. From these shores, if not from the planet itself.
That said, on the balance it was definitely a happy day for my family. Even though we didn't really foresee any problems, it was a huge weight off of our (especially his) shoulders once my partner had the letter in his hand. We've been together a long time now, and I know that we'll take whatever bumps in the road await us as his medical transition journey continues. Likewise, I don't think that legions of right wing bigots and religious supremacists are going to be pounding down our door tomorrow. But neither do I think that they'll go away if we ignore them, like many of did with Rick Santorum.
My partner's trans-ness is about to become a lot more visible, and his letter coinciding with Santorum's unpredicted primary wins in the South today serves as a vivid reminder that although queer & trans* identity are the hardly outside the norm in circles we tend to move in, our experience of the world is hardly universal. It's vitally important to keep sharing our lives as queer/LGBT people and work to build understanding across cultural, religious, and political lines.
In the meantime I take some comfort in the knowledge that my partner has a Walther 9mm and knows how to use it. Both because he may need it someday, and because I bet the idea of a hot queer trans* person carrying a gun would break the brains of many of the voters who delivered Rick Santorum's primary wins this evening.