Why I Voted For Obama

Since the election, I’ve read the various comments posted on Facebook and Twitter expressing the political opinions of my friends. One of my favorite things about this country is that people with vastly different beliefs can coexist together and work toward a common goal of a better future. To quote our president, I believe that “our differences unite us.”

With that being said, however, I do believe a certain level of decorum is necessary when expressing one’s self in a forum as public as the internet’s social media web sites. I felt such personal resentment when reading the posts of my more conservative peers.  Specifically, there were posts calling me – and anyone else who casted votes based on social justice issues for that matter – selfish.

I voted for President Obama. I did so knowing the state of the economy. I graduated from college at a time when jobs were scarce. I currently work seven days a week, holding two jobs so that I can keep the roof over my head, the lights turned on, and maintain a miniscule amount of health care that will most likely not cover any significant medical need that may arise. My retirement fund consists of the $141.19 that sits in an online savings account.

My situation is not ideal, but I know that it could be a lot worse. Do I want more jobs available and greater pay and the value of homes to increase? Absolutely. Do I think the government needs to reign in their spending and cut the deficit? Of course. Do I think we get carried away with military spending? Do I think it’s absurd that our country spent more on Nintendo last year than we did on the Department of Education? Of course I do. I don’t think that President Obama has all the right answers when it comes to our economy. I actually believe that a more conservative approach fiscally would do this country a lot of good.

If my life was measured in dollar signs, I would not have voted for President Obama. But there is more to this face that you see than money. Before anything else, I am a person. I am a person who deserves every single right that my fellow Americans have. Yet, I have never known such a feeling in my lifetime because of a secret that I have been carrying within me since the day I was born.

I am gay. I’m a faggot, a queer, a queen, a fudge-packer. I’m strange, weird, different, not normal, disgusting. I am every name that I’ve ever been called since middle school.

I was born into a family where the people I admired most spoke disparagingly about homosexuals openly in front of me while I sat there as my insides churned with unease, trying to hide in plain sight.

I was born into a Church that considers me an abomination doomed to burn in hell for all eternity, despite the many years that I faithfully served it.

I watched a Presidential candidate tell me that I “can be fixed.” I didn’t know I was broken.

I was told that I will “destroy marriage.” I didn’t know I yielded so much power.

I was told that I will be the cause of the ruination of society as we know it. I always tried to do my best to push our society forward and do my small part.

I gave up all hope for a wedding of my own, for a family of my own, for children of my own because it is not what society wants. I’ve never brought a date to Thanksgiving dinner. I’ve never received a +1 to weddings. I’ve never walked in public and held the hand of the person I love. I’ve never sat and talked with my family about who I’m dating or who I think is cute. I’ve never cried into the shoulder of my family when someone broke my heart.

I kept my true identity, my real self a secret. I gave up a lot to fit the mold that society wants me to fit. I think that is the farthest thing from “selfish.”

While some of you may think putting issues of social justice above the economy foolish, I respectfully disagree with you. To expect me to vote based largely on the economy, for a presidential candidate that does not respect me as a human being and that does not even have the decency to learn about homosexuals – I think that’s selfish. You are asking me to continue to put my life on hold, to keep my secret so that you can get the economy back on track.

I won’t do that any longer.

I voted for President Obama because I live in a state where my boss can fire me just for being gay. And there is nothing anyone can say or do about it.

I voted for President Obama because he told me that if I wanted to be brave enough to risk my life defending this country, I could do so just the way I was.

I voted for President Obama because my sister – who grew up under the same roof, under the same parents, went to the same schools as I did – has more than a thousand rights that are denied to me. My parents raised us the same. What is so different about me that I don’t deserve those same rights?

I voted for President Obama because he is the first sitting President in the history of this nation to tell me that he believes I have every right to marry the person I love. One of the happiest days of my life was the day I watched my sister marry Steve, the man she doesn’t want to spend another day without. Somewhere buried deep underneath my joy was a tinge of sadness because I knew in the back of my head that I will never get that chance. I won’t have the opportunity to walk my love down the aisle of the Church I grew up in and profess my love in front of my God, my family, and my friends.

I voted for President Obama because I want the right to spend my life with the person I love and I want to be able to sit by their side in the hospital as they take their last breath.

I voted for President Obama because I want to be a dad someday, and I want my children to have every right that every other child has.

I voted for President Obama because Matthew Shepard isn’t alive to do so. He was brutally and viciously murdered for being gay in 1998. It took more than a decade for this country to make the killing of individuals for being homosexuals a hate crime. The hand that held the pen to sign that into law was Barack Obama’s.

I voted for President Obama because the hundreds of gay teens that committed suicide since 2008 weren’t alive to voice their opinion. They won’t ever get to see the new day that rests on the horizon where all men truly will be considered equal.

I voted for President Obama because more than 20% of the homeless youth in this country are gay teens. Half of all teens that come out of the closet receive a negative reaction from their parents. One in four of them are thrown out of their homes. With no place to go but the streets, 60% of those homeless gay teens are sexually victimized. The gay youth in this country are four times more likely to commit suicide than their straight peers. When I think of all the children who didn’t live to hear Barack Obama tell them “it gets better,” it pains my heart. They were just kids.

You may call me selfish for voting for the reasons that I did, but at least know the reasons before you make such a statement. I’ve spent twenty-seven years hiding who I was. I’ve lived with the guilt of being gay. I’ve lived with the heart ache that comes from being the only son – the son that cannot carry on the family name because he is gay. I’ve lived my entire life denying myself a lot of things so as not to make others uncomfortable. I’ve tried to be a good person. I’ve always tried to give what I could to help anyone who needed it. I’ve tried my hardest to reconcile myself with the Church that I so loved but never loved me back. I’ve tried. I’m done trying to be what you want me to be. If that’s selfish, then I am guilty as charged.

I’ve heard it said that, “It’s hard to hate up close.” I don’t know if that’s true or not, but maybe now that you’ve been let a little closer to me, your ideas about certain social justice issues will change.

And maybe you won’t see me as someone so selfish.


image via Flickr user wiredbike

About J H

J lives in Philadelphia where he taught for two years before selling his soul to work for a lawyer. You can follow him on Twitter at @ThisIsHowieDew.

One Response to Why I Voted For Obama

  1. Well said. It would have been my story too.

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