Today started at 7am, an hour earlier than the previous days. Dan is driving Francis this morning, and I'm going to be riding with everyone else on the Big Bus. I've heard a lot about the community and politics aboard the bus, and I wanted to experience it for myself.
Almost immediately after departing, Molly got up and apologized for leaving the bus after a vote against going to the Westborough Baptist Church. She hadn't spoken with me about this beforehand, and I ended up feeling somewhat betrayed. We had a lot of fun on our brief outing together, and here she was saying that it had been a mistake and a betrayal of the group. I consider myself a member of the group...
Then Belinda got up and spoke about how rough of a day yesterday was. She told us that the Executive Committee had lots of information that it could not share with the group and still retain control. She told us that the Executive Comittee was telling us everything that they could tell us, and asked us not to ask them for more information. She keeps telling us how she needs to maintain control. It's frightening to me, as I consider myself a person who is fairly free and independant, to have another person telling me that they are controlling me.
We were told that because there were members of the press aboard, we needed to really stay in control and maintain appropriate behavior. References were made to 'good riders' ("and you know who you are") and troublesome riders ("and you know who you are".) "Me?" was my immediate thought. When references are made to trouble makers (or evil-doers), I immediately feel guilty. My Catholic upbringing, I suppose.
Belinda then told us that the E.C. could not act as councellors for all of us. She asked us to go to the two Unitarian Universalist ministers aboard if we needed someone to speak with. The E.C. has asked the reverends to be more proactive in speaking with the various riders.
The word 'processed' is used a lot. The Executive Committee was 'processing' our visit to the WBC until 3am last night. The reverends will be 'processing' with each of the riders. The E.C. needs to 'process' the incident with the film makers.
Then Megan (as in Pagan) got up and spoke about how the everyone loves the E.C. Then John got up and spoke about how sweet it was going through Kansas City as an openly gay man and a proud activist. Stuart (his husband) spoke about Kansas City, and his first trip here with John by train, and how beautiful it was. On the train with them was an insensitive Los Angelean woman who didn't appreciate KC, but Stuart considers it his home away from home.
We were only an hour out from St. Louis, but I was already emotionally exhausted. Jeez, how do the other riders survive?
Someone popped the film Separate but Equal into the bus VCR. It's a film based on the fight to desegregate public schools. This was the last part of the film, which folks had begun watching the previous day. I think it was a metaphor.
Now it's 10:30am — I just got a call from Roland telling me that he had been kicked off of the bus. The E.C. is in the back of the bus huddling in a tight group, discussing whether to prohibit Roland from filming the caravan at all. I went back and told them that I think that their decision to ban the documentary crew is stupid, but it's theirs to make. I told them that I would be honored to have Roland on our bus. They thanked me and returned to their huddle.
I'm so angry. I guess that the idea of being in a group that would excommunicate you for a single mistake is pretty frightening. I've been rejected by an entire group of friends twice before in my life, and it's devastating.
When we were in Salt Lake City at the Cedars of Lebanon, there was much sturm und drang about whether we should go over to the Mormon temple to quietly discuss gay marriage with people there. Molly got up and told everyone that she believed that since we were in SLC anyhow, we should engage people in discussion. Davina stated that she had given her word that we wouldn't speak. A local reporter who was in the restaurant 'coincidentally' stood up and told us that engaging the Church in SLC would offend lots of people.
As this was being discussed, a shy, quiet waitress who has been bringing our tea leaned over to me and whispered "You should go over there. You should definitely go over there." She said it with such urgency that I had to ask why. "My mom came out as a lesbian a few years ago" she said. "She was a Mormon, and after she came out, all of her friends and family shunned her. She was so alone. It was so hard on her."
I knew what she felt. While I was in college, I was crazy in love with my best friend, a straight boy named J.M. Despite our both knowing that I loved him, we decided to become roommates at UMass. It was a huge, huge mistake. J.M. didn't love me in the same way I loved him, and I got more and more nuts. My drama spilled out into the corridors, and half way through the semester, I was told that the entire floor of our dorm (including J.M.) had asked that I be transferred away.
I have never felt so rejected in my entire life, and I've never really recovered from the damage of that rejection. And when I see it happening to someone else, I feel it very personally myself.
An hour later and 45 miles from St. Louis, and the E.C. is still huddled in the back of the bus...
All five women of the E.C. came to the front of the bus at 11:35 am. Molly began by announcing the status of Karen, the PlanetOut reporter. She's doing okay and on her way home to the care of her doctor.
Then Molly announced that Roland and Anthony were being kicked off of the bus. The E.C. felt that Anthony jeopardized the entire caravan, so the two filmmakers would not be allowed on the bus in the future. The board members were also concerned with their personal liability, and they didn't want anything that didn't promote their goals. Their decision was unanimous.
It's raining. The rally in St. Louis was supposed to be in a park, so the E.C. is trying to figure out where the rally will occur. I haven't been able to reach Dan on his cell since leaving this morning, and I'm a little worried. He probably just forgot to turn on his phone, but to imagine him going for hours without noticing is a little out of character.
Well, I heard from Dan. "Ron, I haven't listened to your messages, but I have something to ask you. I am making a unilateral decision to pick up Roland and Anthony in St. Louis." I agreed, and Dan told me he would see us at the St. Louis rally.
The rally in St. Louis was held in Tower Park, a large private park. I'm not sure how that works, but apparently it does. The park was beautiful. It was raining, so everyone was gathered tightly in a victorian gazebo. Like the folks we've met all along the way, the men and women of St. Louis were full of smiles and love. In many large (and expecially coastal) cities, gay men (and probably women) feel like they have to act aloof and unapproachable. Somewhere, and from someone very stupid, they learned that this makes them more attractive. And so they go home alone at the end of a night in the bar, knowing that they were devastating.
We've encountered absolutely none of this attitude in the places we've visited. Folks are friendly, warm, and have opened their hearts to us. They've shared their family dramas and listened to our stories. They've served us food, often home-cooked and way, way better than anything we ate from hotel restaurants. We've been welcomed like relatives who have been away and who have been missed.
Kansas City is incredibly beautiful. It's as though the local planners stated that all new buildings would have to be works of art, and the architects really tried to make it so.
The hotel's internet connection is down until October 11th, so Martha (from Amsterdam) and I go on a 'short drive' down to a coffee shop that the front desk recommends. Unfortunately, they don't tell us that's it's 20 miles away in a different state (Missouri.) When we finally get to the address we were given, there's not even a café... the address doesn't exist.
A passer-by tells us that he's heard that the Fairmont has access in their lobby. So we walk towards the Fairmont, about 6 blocks away. Halfway there it starts raining. Then it starts raining hard. Martha and I walk into the posh lobby of the Fairmont looking like two wet cats in "Marriage is a Human Right / Not a Heterosexual Priviledge!" t-shirts. The desk staff looked askew at us. We looked aloofly at them. And then we scurried around a corner and found a place to sit.
The Fairmont did have wireless access, but it was $14 a day for access. In a moment of extremely poor judgement, I paid the fee, and then realized that it was midnight and I was incredibly tired. Too tired to write.
But it was Martha's 6th anniversary. Gay people, who until recently could not marry, have many annniversaries. Often the anniversary is of when the couple started going out. Dan and I first met 17 years ago. This coincides with another anniversary, the first time we slept together. Now we have a second anniversary, of our wedding two weeks ago.
So it had been six years since something happened between Martha and her wife, and Martha wanted to send a love note. Martha's and her wife live in the Netherlands, where they can be legally married. Martha is a love exile... she cannot return to the United States because she cannot bring her wife with her. If the federal government recognized their marriage, Martha would be able to live close to her ailing mother. Instead, she needs to live 3,000 miles away.
After Martha wrote her letter, we drove home through Kansas City. The streets were wet, and one hotel's face danced with thousands of miniature lights.
I love this country.
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