Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Election Day Part 2.

The news via our site manager wasn’t optimistic.  Polling numbers were showing a less than expected voter turn out, especially in Portland.  We made excuses for this alarming situation.  Was it all the early voting, absentee ballots, or was it the frigid cold day that were keeping the voters away? Stubborn and steadfast, we were not willing to accept defeat.  Led by our spiritual role model and site coordinator, our team soldiered on.  She and her partner have been waiting for this day for nearly 20 years.  I noticed on the way in to the office, a wedding dress hanging in the back of her Subaru. Apparently, she was planning on wearing it in the ballroom if we won.

Our team worked with waves of door-to-door canvassing all afternoon and into the evening.  New helpers and volunteers from campaigns past arrived to make the most of the precious few hours remaining.  I was even asked to train new volunteers.  Excited and honored, I tried to inspire the final canvassers, emphasizing that these last minute conversations about marriage equality and the importance of voting, could make the difference in the election.  

As the polls were about to close, our canvassers and turf leaders started to trickle back in to the office.  Cold and exhausted from the marathon effort, they warmed themselves and snacked on day old bagels and the remnants of cold fried chicken and mashed potatoes.  After a brief respite, it was time to go.  We quickly straightened up the office and went our separate ways.  We were to meet up at the ballroom for the results to come in.  I offered to drive a group of incredible high school student volunteers to the Hotel.  It’s inspiring and energizing to work with young people.  For the most part, their lives haven’t been warped by cynicism or years of prejudice.   Their enthusiastic effort to support this cause was even more impressive knowing that they weren’t old enough to vote.

As soon as we arrived at the ballroom the students were off to find their friends and I did the same.  I started to work for the campaign at the same time as my new friend.  After a few moments we met up and hugged.  I was fortunate to have someone to share the night with.  As we walked through the welcome halls and into the ballroom, it was wonderful to see so many familiar faces.  The people who I worked with, volunteers, office visitors, and the others who made donations or picked up yard signs, bumper stickers, and tee shirts; warmly greeted me, and as they called out my name, I habitually thanked them for their support.  Many responded, “No, thank you.”  Win or loose, I felt like I was really part of something special.  

We enjoyed a few drinks and laughs with other friends, and the night moved along quickly.  Oblivious to the introductory speeches in the background, my friend tried to set me up with some of the cute people she noticed scoping me out.  If that indeed happened, I was incredulous.  While I had met so many beautiful people during the campaign, I never considered myself worthy of their attention. My self-confidence with my new identity has only gone so far, and romantic involvement remains a daunting prospect.  Someday soon I hope to take that step, just not this election night.   

Without warning, there was a cheer! The speeches abruptly stopped and the crowd of supporters all turned their attention to the exciting news being projected on several large screens. It couldn’t be, could it?  I had been so worried about the Presidential campaign.  I didn’t expect the results so soon, if ever.  The news was a welcome surprise.  The Nation reelected President Obama, the first sitting President to support same sex marriage, and a nation of LGBT supporters breathed a collective sigh of relief.

We danced and embraced each other; then someone bought another round of vodka and sodas.  The mood of the evening had changed and the worrisome looks people wore on their faces at the start of the night began to fade.  There was hope after all.  Perhaps our hard work would indeed pay off.   We didn’t have to wait much longer for the answers.  The director of the Yes on One campaign appeared on stage.  He was smiling and the crowd’s excitement grew with anticipation.  The staff and volunteers were invited to join him.  Arm and arm, we made our way through the crowd and found a spot near the back of the stage.   His speech was personal, sharing his own struggles with inequality and how he became so involved with this issue.  Then it happened, the years of frustration and struggle for marriage equality in Maine was over.  WE WON!  As he thanked the voters for their support and recognized the campaign workers, we couldn’t contain ourselves anymore.  There was an eruption of jubilation and tears of joy filled the ballroom from end to end.   

In the commotion, my friend got my attention. She wanted to share something personal with me.  We left the stage and found a quieter place to talk.  She had been dealing with some wonderful, yet tumultuous news in her family, and needed someone to confide in.  I was honored she trusted in me and we shared a grateful embrace.  I’ve rarely had moments like that night, and we both realized how special it was to share in it together.  For the next hour we bathed in the glow of campaign bliss.  Wandering through the ballroom, we hugged and kissed everyone we had worked with, but the sight of couples embracing and the promise of a new tomorrow, was a joy I’ve never witnessed.  The memories of those moments have been forever etched in my heart.   

Exhausted, but too excited to go home, we headed to Denny’s for coffee and something to eat.  It was the only option we could think of that would be open past midnight.   It was nice to sit in the red booth away from the chaos. Sipping something warm and waiting for our pancakes and eggs, we finally talked about our lives away from the campaign.  She seemed interested in my story and I‘ve become more comfortable sharing my tragic and often humorous experiences of growing up trans in secret.  In turn I was privileged to hear some of her life as well. As usual, I did most of the chatting, my plate was still full and hers was empty.  The volume of the diner grew louder as more campaign workers and election supporters, filled the waiting seats.  Suddenly I felt the weight of the day and my tired eyes were an indication to end our evening.  I still had to drive 30 miles home.  Before parting, we expressed to each other how much we would treasure this evening. 

While the solitary drive home was uneventful, I was reminded of a night a few years ago when I met another new friend at that very Denny’s.  It so happened to be my first public outing as Gia.  Earlier that year, I was having coffee with a friend from high school, and I noticed her in the corner of the shop.  We had met briefly at a group meeting, so I knew a little about her.  She was sitting quite comfortably with an older couple; whom I assumed were her grandparents. Their relationship with each other was touching.  I imagined to myself, could that ever be me?  Without a plan, I confided in my high school friend my secret gender identity.   From that day on, I grew stronger in my own skin and began to embrace being a transgender person.  Our subsequent meeting at Denny’s was an excuse to thank her, but also to take that next step in my evolution. 

I pulled into the driveway to the sound of my tires on crushed stone.  I hope the noise didn’t wake my roommate.  As I gathered all my bags, I was startled by the bright flash of floodlights and was momentarily blinded.  They’re motion-sensitive, but not very predictable.  As I regained my vision, I noticed the clock on the dashboard.  It was 3:30 in the morning.  I had left my house Twenty-four hours earlier.  What a difference a day can make.