So, a couple of weeks ago, after the NY State Senate voted down marriage equality, I put my legal right to marry up for auction on eBay. My symbolic auction had raised $327 for the Point Foundation, which provides mentors, financial assistance, and support for LGBT students, before it was pulled. I won't go into details because I'd rather move forward than complain about an easily overcome obstacle.
But this blew up the tiniest bit. $327? That's a pretty decent contribution during this tight holiday season, and it was an amount of which I was really proud. The word had really spread in the LGBT blogosphere. I was interviewed by two radio shows as well as Advocate.com, who also followed up when the listing was pulled. Even more surprisingly, my local news station -- on Long Island, where only two state senators, Brian Foley and Craig Johnson, voted in support of marriage equality -- covered this story and may also follow up now that the auction has a new venue. I was so proud of News 12 Long Island that day. I should mention that for a few months in 2007, I provided them some really horrible production assistance. But I will be forever thankful that they covered this story.
(I'm also pretty grateful that the outlets that have covered this include the fact that I know I can't actually auction off my right to marry. The last thing we need on our side is an idiot. And I'm not one.)
But I think the best part of this was the overwhelming support this received. I'm going to keep their usernames out, but here are some of the best comments that were posted on my eBay listing. You'll see why I won't let this thing die.
"Thank you! It's people like you that give me hope that maybe someday this bigotry will end. I've been with my partner for 18 years and my one wish is that we can have this legal protection for our rapidly approaching old age. Thanks for finding a creative way to highlight our issue."
"You rock! And this is a brilliant idea. Thank you so much for your support. My significant other and I have been together for almost 9 years and have a 2 year old son. We are a family in every way except legally. Thank you for standing up for us."
"Thank you Jamie. I read about your auction through joemygod.com. It brings a tear to my eye to hear someone like you, who does not have a vested interest in gay marriage, come out as a vocal supporter.
Don't give up on marriage. You sound like quite a catch. Any guy would be lucky to have such a kind woman as his wife." [That seems totally self-serving to reprint, but it was just, honestly, one of the nicest things ever told to me by someone whom I've never met, and I'll never forget it.]
"I unfortunately cannot afford to bid on your right to marry, but I can afford a comment. Bravo, Jamie. Bravo. And thank you." [The new venue allows an option for individual donations of any size!]
"Jamie, I am sure that you are getting a lot of mail thanking you for this posting, but I figured, why not add another one to the pile? I remember Prop 8, Question 1, and the so many other votes throughout the country in recent years that made me feel like I was an inferior being. I can remember contemplating, and eventually attempting (and thankfully failing), suicide because of that feeling. I remember watching the New York vote online, and with every 'No' vote, just feeling worse and worse, because one day, when I find someone that I want to spend the rest of my life with, I want the option that you are so generously selling. When it became clear that the vote was not going to pass, I sat in bed crying, wondering how people could be so ignorant, and why I couldn't get married just because I like other men. People don't realize how much basic rights such as marriage mean to those who do not have it, so I thank you for trying to help. Thank you."
"This is a comment, not a question: THANK YOU, Ms Frevele, for doing this! Your description is both elegant and right on (as we used to say in the 60's), your actions commendable. We cannot win Equal Marriage by ourselves, we MUST have straight allies such as yourself. When this 'war' is over, you can take pride in having had a hand in the victory!"
"This is wonderful and I would like to personally thank you for this. If this gets around it sends a really great message. You may want to consider donating the money to the Ali Forney Center in Manhattan as they are really hurting. They take in LGBT kids who get thrown away when they come out to their parents. Thanks again." [Thank YOU, for bringing another worthy organization to my attention!]
You rock. My amazing partner of 5 years, our beautiful baby boy, and I all thank you for fighting the good fight and finding a refreshingly humorous way to bring attention to the ridiculous nature of this political struggle. I intensely resent the fact that the government feels entitled to legislate my family's happiness and legal wellbeing - and without plenty of good hetero folks on our side, this struggle will never end. The Point Foundation sounds like a perfect fit, kudos to you for the protest/fundraiser all in one! Thank you!"
"Jamie, I'm just writing to say thank you. I'm Canadian and here, in Canada, same sex marriage is a legal right. It's hard to watch the disappointment and frustration on my gay sisters and brothers faces every time they're told they are less than equal. Marriage equality in the US will be a tough battle, but you are helping to tip the scales. Best of all, you're doing it with humour and more that just a little sarcasm. Thank you for speaking out. Thank you for your kindness. Thank you for your common sense. And when the day comes that gay women and men can marry, I will think of you. So will every other gay person who's seen this listing. With this gesture, you've become a piece of it all. Just in case you don't already know it - you rock, girl!"
What prompted me to do this was the fiance of my high school prom date and best guy friend in high school. I loved him like a brother, and we just got back in touch a couple of years ago. In that teenage "Island of Misfit Toys," he was just one of many rocks, all of us supporting each other. So after the vote was over, the first thing I saw on Facebook was his fiance's status: "NY just reminded me that I'm a second-class citizen." I had joked about putting my right to marry up on eBay, but after reading that, it was time to make a point.
The new auction can be found at IDonatetoCharity.org, and this one is even better than eBay. For those who cannot afford to bid on a growing amount, individual donations can be made (of any size) to the Point Foundation. For those who still cannot afford a donation, that's also fine. It's rough for everyone right now. But you can still spread the word. Post the link on Facebook, email it, just get the word out. If there's anything I've learned from doing comedy, it's that you never know who is out there who can help out. You never know. You may tell 25 people about this and 24 of them are against marriage equality. But one person who supports it will be able to bid, donate, or further spread the word. It works. And 10 of those people might be on the fence and change their minds.
There will be people who think this is stupid. I've already been called a "looney" on one site, which made me giggle because it made me think of Monty Python's "Fish License" sketch in which John Cleese proclaims "I am not a looney!" while trying to obtain a license for his pet fish, Eric. Eric the Fish. Ironic, because it makes me wonder about the first time a same-sex couple tried to obtain a marriage license and were probably called way worse. But this shouldn't be about shutting up our opponents. They can say whatever they want, spreading hate and venom to people who haven't received the facts. It's our duty to provide those facts, to be smarter, louder, organized, and open-minded. It's not time to write people off or underestimate humanity. Change can happen on this, and even if it takes decades, we just won't shut up or give up. We've had setbacks, but underneath the most visible rejections are the most inconspicuous victories. And one day, they will grow so much that they can't be ignored. People will change, new voices will emerge, and at some point justice will not be denied. We just need to be patient. And trust me, I really hate that. I hate being told to wait. Hate it. But if that's required, let's take it. It's better than being told there's no hope left.
That's why I chose the Point Foundation. There are plenty of excellent people and organizations working on marriage equality on the local, state and national levels. (Including the Empire State Pride Agenda.) But I chose the Point Foundation for a couple of reasons. One, I was not popular in school. I was a nerd, then I was a freak. While I had close friends that I appreciated much too late, when they weren't around, it was lonely and scary. If I had been struggling with this awkward, impossible teendom while also coming to grips with my sexuality, and wondering if my own friends and family, let alone my school, would accept me, I don't know what I would have done. I don't think I would have made it out alive. The Point Foundation supports the kids who are dealing with that right now. Two, the most exceptional of these kids, the Point Scholars, are the new voices that will emerge. They are the ones who will become leaders, and they need to be guided and nurtured. Three, some people might be on the fence about marriage equality. But lots of those people will not deny kids.
Yes, this auction is a silly idea. Yes, I consider myself to be a comedian, and that might lessen my credibility. But as you can see, I can write. I am using my skills for something worthwhile that needs attention and it has worked. More of us need to come out and use our talents for something bigger than ourselves so we can overcome those who use their positions and skills for the wrong reasons. (I'm talking to you, Ruben Diaz, using the pulpit to spread anything but compassion, tolerance, and acceptance.)
So visit my listing. If you can bid, wonderful. If you can donate, awesome. If all you can do is send the link, still wonderful and awesome. It's the time to unearth our allies.
Follow Jamie Frevele on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jamielikesthis