It Was the Best and Worst…
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair… we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way….”
This is (most of) the first line in Charles Dickens’ famous novel, A Tale of Two Cities. Written 160 years ago, it is arguably the most famous opening sentence in all of English literature.
And, as I sit watching the news, it occurs to me, to put it succinctly, Mr. Dickens is telling us, or perhaps warning us, of the time(s) of contradictions.
It Is the Best of Times: On May 2, Time Magazine released the cover for their May 13 issue. Nearly fifty years to the date of the Stonewall Uprising, the cover was a picture of two men, wearing button down shirts and navy slacks, each one with an arm around the other—the headline, First Family. Its subtitle: The unlikely, untested and unprecedented campaign of Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
And here we are, only a scant four years since the US Supreme Court affirmed the right of gay individuals to marry, Mayor Pete and his husband, Chasten Glezman, are running to be our president and first spouse.
It Is the Worst of Times: On May 2, Donald Trump stood in the White House Rose Garden and during a National Day of Prayer speech, announced a finalized health care regulation (proposed in early 2018) that will “protect” the “statutory conscience rights” of health care providers by granting federal nondiscrimination protection to those who deny services to people who violate the providers’ sincerely held religious beliefs.
This new “conscience rule” is modeled on new religious refusal laws in 12 states that have already been used to deny services, including health care, to LGBTQ people.
It is the Spring of Hope: On January 3 the Rainbow Wave of newly elected Senators and House Representatives arrived in Washington, DC to be sworn in for the 116th Congress. They are but a handful of the over 150 out and proud LGBTQ candidates to have won elections across the US, from Kansas to Colorado, Florida to Pennsylvania, Arizona, Minnesota, and New Hampshire. Quite the cross section.
It is the Winter of Despair: On January 22 The Supreme Court allowed Trump’s transgender military ban to go into effect. The policy blocks individuals who have been diagnosed with a condition known as gender dysphoria from serving. With limited exceptions and specifics, they can only serve according to the sex they were assigned at birth.
We are all going to heaven: On April 7 Mayor Pete speaks at an LGBTQ Victory Fund event, “That’s the thing that I wish the Mike Pences of the world would understand,” Buttigieg said. “That if you have a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me. Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.”
We are all going direct the other way: On April 24 Evangelist Franklin Graham replied, “Mayor Buttigieg says he’s a gay Christian. As a Christian I believe the Bible which defines homosexuality as sin, something to be repentant of, not something to be flaunted, praised or politicized. The Bible says marriage is between a man and a woman—not two men, not two women.”
Ironically, as seemingly difficult as it is to find any common ground, I think we can all agree this is a time of contradictions. Wherever there is light, there is also darkness.
So what do we take from Mr. Dickens? I think we take that we, our LGBTQ community, are living in a time of shocking duality and therefore we must weigh our own choices—carefully. We must understand that every victory won’t necessarily have a defeat, but rather, it may come with surprising, hidden, costs.
We have everything before us.
We have nothing before us.
On April 22, continuing in October 2019 The US Supreme Court has accepted three cases that ask whether federal anti-discrimination laws should apply to sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace, setting this court on track to consider high-profile LGBTQ issues in its next term.
From our very own Joe Biden to Mayor Pete, and all of those who have announced, from Dems to Independents to Republicans, let’s all remember…a vote is a terrible thing to waste. ▼
Stefani Deoul is a television producer and author of the award-winning YA mystery series Sid Rubin Silicon Alley Adventures, with On a LARP and Zero Sum Game.