Interning on the Side of Love
Telling my friends where I was working for the summer took some explaining: “Standing on the Side of Love” is a pretty vague name, and Unitarian Universalism isn’t the easiest concept. When asked, “So what do you do at that internship of yours?” my default answer became, “Social justice work.”
One day, when the internet went down and we couldn’t get at our e-mails, Orelia Busch, who works on women’s issues for UUA, invited me to a protest by the Capitol. When I think of “social justice work,” this is the kind of thing that comes to mind: We spent an hour in the sticky summer heat marching around with a bunch of activists from GetEqual, carrying signs urging Nancy Pelosi to bring the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to vote. House staffers came out on the balcony of their building to watch us parade by, and we all got sore throats from chanting: “What do we want? Equality! When do we want it? Now!” When I got home that evening, there were pictures of the protest on a blog I read, and I was excited to see myself and Orelia in the in the sign-waving crowd.
But I learned that there’s more to working on a campaign than marching around in front of Congress. “Back to putting things on flash drives,” I sighed after lunch one day, while we were putting together the Activist Tool Kits.
“But you’re putting things on flash drives for Great Justice!” Rob Keithan, then director of the Washington Office, said. I laughed, and felt a bit more enthusiastic about working on our Flash Drives for Great Justice.
The best part, by far, was the public witness event at General Assembly. I’ve only been a UU for a couple of years, so GA wasn’t ever something I’d looked at until Adam left a note on my desk telling me to put it on my calendar. I spent the whole week looking forward to the rally at Twin Cities Pride, and snuck into the Plenary hall to watch the excitement unfold. The carriage pulled by roosters was pretty exciting – I even got to ride in it a bit! – but not quite as awesome as Gini’s comments about how the work we have to do as a congregation can’t always happen in a plenary hall. It was fantastic to watch the sea of orange t-shirts (which I had packaged up, hauled to the FedEx store, and sold all week at the booth) parading down to the park.
At some point during all the speakers and musicians, I noticed I had tears in my eyes. I left my Presbyterian church around the same time I came out as a lesbian, and joined a UU church after visiting a few for gay proms. (“I didn’t think of those as tools for evangelism,” one of my coworkers commented.) The blogs I read are always full of stories about some church or another hating on the GLBT community. So to stand in the middle of this vibrant (by which I mean bright orange) faith community, listening to ministers from all sorts of faiths promising to stand on the side of love and support GLBT people was almost surreal, and I felt thrilled to be so a part of it.
And then my little reverie was broken: there were postcards to pass out and collect, full of names and e-mails that I’d spent the next week typing up. Not everything can be rallies and protests, but it was fun looking through the postcards and seeing the names of all the awesome people I met. I’m glad I got spend the summer with such a wonderful community, working in ways loud and quiet towards justice.