People who know me well won’t be surprised that I’m especially curious about the “collateral” impact of same-sex marriage fights on LGBT communities, so I’d love to hear if anyone has seen actual data on the issue as I’m describing it here. A couple months back, the executive director of a local nonprofit– one that was founded by and still heavily serves the LGBT community– commented to me that his organization was likely to see about a $200,000 drop this year in charitable contributions. Most of that money, he said, was going to the Vote No campaign, which we both agreed was necessary but raised a really vital concern for me, namely this: When a community already has limited resources to care for its own, what is the impact on supportive services when capital is diverted to political defense efforts?
I can see a couple areas worth exploring. The first is charitable donations, which in a highly politicized climate often go to the most visible and widely covered causes. Second is health outcomes, where I know some research has been published previously on HIV/STI incidence in states that passed same-sex marriage bans. Recently when I did some historical research on early gay and lesbian social services (post-Stonewall through pre-AIDS), it really stood out that these charities survived on small donors and volunteers (often service consumers) until big grants arrived, but the private support would then become precarious because donors would move on to the next big problem area. With just my anecdotal observations to go on right now, it doesn’t seem all that different from what I see today.
I do think that the moment presented here is interesting in that same-sex marriage is closer to becoming a fact in Minnesota (and across the U.S.) than ever before. Yet, how much impact will that have on queer people who experience multiple stressors such as family rejection, homelessness, poor health, addiction, etc.? Forty years ago, activists were making the case that services were needed “by us and for us,” yet the resources to fully sustain them were overwhelmed by the sheer amount of need that turned up. Today– 31 years after AIDS was discovered– there are some channels for funding LGBT-affirming services, but not many. Aside from this point, I think that as queer communities continue to develop– in physical as well as online spaces– there is an inevitable conversation looming about what we most need in order to adequately take care of each other. I just hope that we don’t lose sight of these numerous health disparities in the public arguments ahead.
Although my academic schedule kept me out of the action for this past election, like most queer Minnesotans I watched the results with a mixture of anxiousness and anticipation and felt deeply proud when we became the first state to reject one of these divisive ballot initiatives. I’m especially in awe of the organizers, volunteers, and donors who pulled off a smart, well-focused campaign. A few thoughts linger with me in the aftermath, which I’ll try to share here as fully as possible.
I remember when my home state of Michigan passed one of these amendments, after I had already moved away. Seeing the returns and the wide margin by which it passed felt like a shocking punch to the stomach– something that left me unsettled on several return visits afterward because I couldn’t help but wonder– who would be part of that 60% that voted to permanently deny same-sex couples equal marriage rights? On those trips I would quietly look around at strangers, at family members during reunions, at fellow football game attendees, and absorb that they had likely voted with the majority. It felt creepy– undermining my confidence in a number of ways and making it difficult to spend time in the state for very long.
Fast forward to the present, when yesterday my partner and I walked our dog through the neighborhood and noted several lingering orange “Vote No” signs lining the blocks. I wondered, how would today feel if Minnesota had followed the 31 other states to put LGBT marriage rights to a popular vote? Together we couldn’t quite come up with the words that would describe our feelings if this place– where we met, bought a home, and started building our careers– had made discrimination a constitutional mandate. There is still a lot of work ahead to get same-sex marriage legalized here, and I have lots of opinions on the other “unfinished” work of building a community that raises and nurtures healthier queer people from youth through old age. Today though, on a sunny afternoon with pleasant fall shadows hanging around me, what lingers is the sensation of a close brush with something deeper and more jarring, a narrow escape from the perilous prospect of waking up to question whether this home was still truly a home.
Hi, I’m Michael.
I finally broke down and created a blog– not that I’d been resisting, but it always felt like I had neither the time nor the energy to write when I was working full-time in the nonprofit world. But, the last couple years have changed that as I have worked through my graduate program and started teaching. So, now I feel like I need to get my habits back into shape– in this case, getting into a routine where I just put down my thoughts, organize some ideas, maybe share some past materials, and hopefully get into good conversations with everyone I know and love, as well as the friends I haven’t made yet.
So, welcome. I’ll try to add content regularly. The blog name, by the way, is meant to be a (hopefully clever) pun, riffing off the fact that many of my best times occur when I’m surrounded by good food, good wine, and good conversation. I live in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in a beautiful old farmhouse shared with my partner of many years, our two closest friends, one dog, and four cats. I attend and teach at the University of Minnesota, but my deepest love and loyalty will always be to my first alma mater, Michigan State University. Both are very good universities and both are land grants, but they are very different as well. I’ll try to stay balanced in my praise and criticism of each.
I want to write a couple more posts before I send this site out to everyone. This seems to be a good way to organize my thoughts when I need more motivation. I hope you’ll read and comment back as well, as that seems to keep me on my toes with my writing. More in a bit.