The Ballot Box as a Weapon: Why I vote

Friday, October 05, 2012

Create your own frame here.
by Moira Bowman

A response to my friend Nina's post from earlier today.

I hear why you sometimes you have to work up enthusiasm for voting.  My relationship to voting is slightly different from yours because the stark reality of how the ballot box is used as a weapon has been so deeply imprinted on my psyche.

I came of voting age in Oregon, a state where in the course of three years, the human dignity of queer and trans communities was voted on 19 times in both local and statewide elections.  The blatant dehumanizing language in the infamous Measure 9  - “(Oregon) recognizes homosexuality, pedophilia, sadism and masochism as abnormal, wrong, unnatural, and perverse” - put up for a majority vote - was felt deeply within our communities, through our fear, through our bodies, through our tears. 

While the context in Oregon has changed, queer and trans people have access to domestic partnership; discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is no longer legal; and, Portland now has trans inclusive health care for city employees, the experience of waiting to find out the range of human compassion in the electorate time and time again will always be with me. 

The hardest part about elections is peeling back the masking effect of messages, polls, and deadening nationalism to discover whose human dignity is at stake in every school board, legislative, presidential race or ballot measure. Beneath the wonky police-y discourse lie both values and visions for our communities and our families.  Our system makes it hard to understand what is at stake. It systematically works to exclude people of color and low-income communities.  And so, our system must change.  But in this moment, I hope that people will join me in voting for human dignity if they can and will be kind to each other as we wait to find out if the compassion of the electorate extends to all our families.

Moira is the Deputy Director at Forward Together.