Normally, when I wear my rainbow thigh-high socks, it’s because they’re fun, brightly colored, and they keep my legs warm.
But today, I’m wearing them for a different purpose altogether. Today is the day of a nationwide protest against the passage of Prop 8 in California. I, of course, am against Prop 8, which proposes an amendment to the California State Constitution which would define a marriage as being between a man and a woman. This is not the only such ballot measure that has passed, even in this election cycle, but it is different than many of the others in that it actually takes away a right that Californians already had: earlier this year, the California Supreme Court had ruled that denying same-sex couples the right to vote is unconstitutional.
I’ve been taking the passage of Prop 8 very personally. It’s illogical, but there it is. I used to not understand the degree to which state identities matter to people. Driving across the country several times has opened my eyes. States are very different from each other, and that holds true even when you’re no more than a stone’s throw from the border. When I crossed from Utah to Colorado on I-70, the difference was immediate. When you’re in Texas, you know you’re in Texas. Even the landscape seems to change when you cross state borders. I’m generalizing, of course, but it seems to hold true more often than not.
I’m from California, and though I would have said once that Californians don’t really have a strong state identity, I changed my mind on that almost as soon as I left California for college in Massachusetts. (Dude, we’re just more laid back about it, at least in Southern California.)
My point in all this is that despite not actually having been born in California, despite spending the last six years outside California, despite having registered to vote in Virginia as soon as I arrived here, California is still my home state. And I feel guilty for having let Prop 8 pass. I assumed that Californians would never allow it. I thought my vote was needed more in Virginia, where it would have a better chance of counting towards Obama’s victory. I considered donating or volunteering for the No On 8 campaign a couple of times, and didn’t.
I let my state down.
I identify so much as a Californian that I forgot how much of California is not exactly like me. Which is not to say that all of California should look like me… One of the best things about California, just as it is true of the entire United States, is that there are so many different people, that we are not all the same.
But one way I had hoped we were all alike was in our desire to see this world become a better, more inclusive, and more equal place to live in. I do firmly believe that this issue is one of basic civil rights, and that the passage of time will see it validated and widely accepted. I hope that someday, it will be a right that can be taken for granted, as I took it for granted in the lead up to this election. But sadly, that day is not yet today, not even in the state I consider my home.
So today, I am wearing my rainbow socks again, but this time, I wear them to a protest, adding my voice to the voices of others who want to do more to make this right a reality once again.
It is, at least in part, my way of apologizing to the state of California.
I’m sorry I let you down. I will try to do better in the future.