That went ... absolutely perfect. It went as well as I possibly could have hoped. At 5 PM the organizers stepped up front and everyone gathered around. I was really surprised at how many people there were. I thought there would be quite a few, but the lawn was covered with them. (I shot a couple more pics before it started, which I will add to the other gallery later.)
At the very beginning, when everybody started gathering around and the organizers had just started their speech, I saw two boys who met, standing in front of poeticnerd. They wrapped their arms around each other's shoulders and briefly kissed. It wasn't a big thing at all; they didn't treat it as anything out of the ordinary, but for me, personally, that was the most powerful and moving moment of the whole evening. Two boys who love each other could and did express that love openly. It made me happy, because it solidified for me the fact that GLBT people really do exist at Cal Poly.
Generally, everyone was respectful; there were a few things that I considered borderline, but those people backed off very quickly. The anti-gay-marriage people were given plenty of opportunity to speak; none of them did while I was there. (I don't even know if any of them showed up.) The pro-gay-marriage people bent over backwards to make sure the opposition felt they would be respected if they chose to speak.
The organizers got it right. Most of the discussion centered around the difference between holding an opinion and expressing it in a way that makes people feel unsafe, threatened, outcast or otherwise discriminated against. They made it very clear that we respect others' right to an opinion, even if we personally find that opinion offensive. Almost everyone who spoke (including the one woman who chose to play devil's advocate) was down to earth, respectful and open-minded.
There was only one point during the whole presentation where I was worried that things were headed downhill. Someone picked up the dog cutout and brought it up to the front. He asked for one of the people who had created the display to come up, retrieve the dog and put it where he/she thought it belonged. Everyone seemed a little uncomfortable with that, because it was almost a challenge: come up here and recant, or we'll mock and ridicule you. I don't remember exactly how that one was defused, but it was defused quickly and smoothly.
Except for the dog incident, this is the way a protest should be run. It wasn't really a protest, per se, it was a respectful statement of our opinion, and an invitation for public dialogue.
I dragged poeticnerd out for dinner after my class tonight. I needed to decompress a bit. We really need to do that more often.
I had a lot of personal feelings about the whole thing: anxiety, depression, loneliness, happiness, ... I can't quantify them all. They were all very intense, and I was glad poeticnerd and caitsonion were there; I don't think either of you know just how much I needed those hugs. :)
I was anxious and nervous because this is something very personally important to me. I don't know if I'll eventually end up with a boy, or a girl (or maybe both/neither ;P). But I do know that I want to have the option of committing to them in a civil union (or marriage, or whatever you want to call it), regardless of their gender.
I was also anxious because this is the first time I've ever done anything publicly at Cal Poly to express such a strong opinion against the prevailing notions, especially on something as deep and personal to me as this. Cal Poly tends to be a pretty homophobic campus ... the queers tend to camouflage themselves, and with the straight people, you just don't know how they feel about the whole thing.
I was happy because ... well, you should know why I'm happy. :) So many people showed up and voiced their support, and there was such a strong sense of community there ... it makes me very glad to know that Poly students (who have a horrible reputation for being apathetic) are capable of feeling this strongly, and of bonding this strongly.
I was lonely/depressed because even though I had my friends there with me, I realize that this is a way in which I have utterly failed to connect with this campus until now. When it comes to sexuality (and religion and politics, to a lesser extent), I have always--well, since I started questioning myself--felt very disenfranchised here. I have felt very isolated and alone, and it really doesn't have to be that way.
I really wish I hadn't had to leave the protest early for class (though poeticnerd tells me she went back shortly after and it had already broken up). I wish I had gotten a chance to talk to some of those present. But perhaps ...
There is a GLBU meeting tomorrow.
Since the beginning of the school year, I've been wrestling with myself, trying to convince myself I should go. I've been (probably irrationally) afraid. I've been largely afraid of people asking me questions about myself I'm not ready to answer yet (at least, not to total strangers). I've been afraid that I will find little more than a meat market, instead of the connections, identification and friendships I'm looking for. And I'm suffering from the usual anxiety I suffer from whenever I contemplate new social situations.
All that said, I'm going to go tomorrow. caitsonion and I agreed that we're going to meet just beforehand, and go in there just to see what's going on and if it looks like something interesting. That way neither of us will feel (as) uncomfortable going alone. ;P
I'm still afraid, but this is something I need to do, for myself. I have hit the point in my life where I can't afford to be apathetic anymore.
[I know, I haven't gotten around to formatting the pictures yet. I won't tonight, either. Sorry.
Update: O_o I can't believe I forgot to mention the kissing boys ...]