Angela Davis said, in 2014, “You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world. And you have to do it all the time.”
She is right. When you do, you can transform the world.
Donald Trump knew it. He acted as if he could be President when absolutely no one took it seriously. He didn’t just say it. He didn’t even just “act” it. He WAS that he could be President, in every fiber of his being. When he said all manner of contradictory things, when he tapped into white anger, he was BEING that it was possible to radically transform the world, such that he could be President of the United States.
But you don’t have to be Donald Trump to do it.
In February 2003, I got married to my now-ex wife.
You might not remember this, but in February 2003, the idea that same-sex couples could get married was barely a blip on political radar.
Within the gay community, same-sex couples mostly had “commitment ceremonies.” Legal marriage was not available ANYWHERE in North America. Vermont was viewed as a progressive and queer family haven, because in 2000 they authorized legal “civil unions.” Some cities and some companies allowed couples to register as “domestic partners.” Reform Jewish rabbis and some Christian denominations performed religious weddings for same-sex couples, but they had no civil legal impact. If you were not queer, or the close friend or family of someone who had such a wedding, you had probably not given same-sex marriage a moment of thought.
When my ex-wife proposed to me in June 2002, I took a stand that I would NOT be treated as a second class citizen, and in particular, I would not treat myself as a second class citizen.
I WAS that we were getting married. And I was that our getting married was an ordinary and wonderful thing that people should be happy to hear. I intentionally and deliberately turned that on all the time.
Of course, sometimes I got scared or distracted.
I went to New York City for a class a few months before the wedding. My task there was to buy us matching wedding rings. We wanted platinum with little diamonds set in the band.
I felt defensive going into these stores, and I got defensive, awkward responses in the first two places.
My coach from the class was with me. After the second store, he stopped me and he told me how I was being, which was pretty much judgmental and angry. He listened to me get my fear and defensiveness out of my system. He listened to my commitment, my love, and got me back in touch with the knowledge that I had to BE that it was possible to radically transform the world, and I had to do it all the time.
We were supposed to be back in class in 10 minutes.
Right then, I remembered to stop being a second class citizen. I remembered to be a woman buying her wedding ring. I remembered that I was offering him the privilege of selling me two diamond rings, the most expensive jewelry I had ever bought and ever imagined I would buy.
My coach and I walked into the next store. They had a ring that was, to my eye, indistinguishable from my fantasy ring.
“How much for two, exactly the same?” The jeweler named a price almost 30% under my budget, even! We made it back to class on time, because I remembered to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world of who can get married.
On February 22, 2003, a hundred friends and family members came to witness my wedding. Two friends, both legally authorized to perform weddings, officiated the ceremony, although it was not legally a wedding. We wore wedding dresses. The flower girl panicked at the sight of all the people. Our parents were there. Our mothers cried. Some of our friends drank too much. It was, unmistakably, a wedding.
Four months after my non-legal wedding, Ontario, Canada legalized same-sex marriage. Five months after that, Massachusetts issued the Goodridge decision, which legalized same-sex marriage, but gave the government another 6 months to figure out what rules to apply.
In 2004, about a year after my wedding, the Mayor of San Francisco ordered the city clerk to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Thousands of couples flocked to San Francisco, lining up on the streets to get married. In my mind, that was really the moment when America woke up to the question: Should two men or two women be able to legally marry?
Also in 2004, 13 states passed amendments to their state constitutions, prohibiting the state from recognizing or performing same sex marriage. Ten more states joined them in 2005 or 2006. The political debate raged across the United States and the world. New Jersey legalized same-sex marriage, as did South Africa and Spain. Dozens of states and countries created legal “domestic partnerships” or “civil unions.”
Gavin Newsom, Mayor of San Francisco, acted like it was possible.
Starting all the way back in 1983, Evan Wolfson, founder of the Freedom to Marry foundation, acted like it was possible.
Jane Goodridge acted like it was possible in Massachusetts.
Kate and Trish Varnum acted like it was possible in Iowa.
Each person at my wedding acted as if it were possible for me to be married to my wife. They did it all the way through our 11 year marriage, through the birth of our two children, through our divorce (actually legal, but that’s another story), and today through our lives as divorced parents who share custody, people still act as if it were possible.
That work was so successful that even young evangelical conservatives think same sex couples should be able to marry.
How do you want the world to be radically transformed?