Am I In a Dysfunctional Relationship With Barack Obama? We Talked Last Night and it Was Weird

When we first met Barack Obama in 1996, he seemed like the perfect boyfriend: smart, loved freedom, played basketball, had a good sense of humor and lots of interesting stories and, most of all, he loved us for who we were. He wanted the world for us. Things kept on going good for a while there.

“I don’t think marriage is a civil right, but I think that not being discriminated against is a civil right.” (Obama 2004)

He saw in us what others had failed to see. We agreed on so many aspects of relationships that we’d never really seen eye-to-eye on with anyone else before.

For many practicing Christians, the inability to compromise may apply to gay marriage. I find such a position troublesome, particularly in a society in which Christian men and women have been known to engage in adultery or other violations of their faith without civil penalty. I believe that American society can choose to carve out a special place for the union of a man and a woman as the unit of child rearing most common to every culture. I am not willing to have the state deny American citizens a civil union that confers equivalent rights no such basic matters as hospital visitation or health insurance coverage simlpy because the people they love are of the same sex–nor am I willing to accept a readingof the Bible that considers an obscure line in Romans to be more defining of Christianity than the Sermon on the Mount.

The heightened focus on marriage is a distraction from other, attainable measures to prevent discrimination against gays and lesbians.

(Obama, 2006)

Then maybe we got too comfortable? Look, to be honest, I’m not sure what happened. I want to believe in this, and I want to believe in our future together.

I feel like now’s the time. Back in the beginning, our parents didn’t really approve. Our exes DEFINITELY didn’t approve. And now, over a decade later, our parents approve. Our exes approve. Those kids who called us ‘disco dykes’ in middle school approve, albeit judgmentally.

So yesterday, because I’m BRILLIANT, I had this great idea to tell him I wanted to talk and he got that look on his face like “Really, Veronica? Right now?” and here’s the full transcript of how that went down. And look — I know. He said he didn’t really want to talk, or that he wasn’t ready to talk, and sometimes when you make someone talk about the relationship before he’s ready, it ends up being a really unpleasant conversation regardless of how anyone REALLY feels.

Anyhow sorry, tangent!

Okay so first I asked him about that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Thing, and I felt like that went really well and I feel a lot better about it now, though I really QUESTION THE WAY HE’S GOING ABOUT IT. Whatever. I guess everyone has their process, I just wish it didn’t give me so much anxiety. I wish I had a button I could press somewhere to just stop my brain from CARING SO MUCH. But then I wouldn’t be me omg TANGENT. Here, this is what he said:

It’s not a simple yes or no question, because I’m not sitting on the Supreme Court. And I’ve got to be careful, as President of the United States, to make sure that when I’m making pronouncements about laws that Congress passed I don’t do so just off the top of my head.

I think “don’t ask, don’t tell” is wrong. I think it doesn’t serve our national security, which is why I want it overturned. I think that the best way to overturn it is for Congress to act. In theory, we should be able to get 60 votes out of the Senate. The House has already passed it. And I’ve gotten the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to say that they think this policy needs to be overturned — something that’s unprecedented.

And so my hope and expectation is, is that we get this law passed. It is not just harmful to the brave men and women who are serving, and in some cases have been discharged unjustly, but it doesn’t serve our interests — and I speak as Commander-in-Chief on that issue.

Okay, right?

So I had to ask about gay marriage because I seemingly have no self control:

I am a strong supporter of civil unions. As you say, I have been to this point unwilling to sign on to same-sex marriage primarily because of my understandings of the traditional definitions of marriage.

But I also think you’re right that attitudes evolve, including mine. And I think that it is an issue that I wrestle with and think about because I have a whole host of friends who are in gay partnerships. I have staff members who are in committed, monogamous relationships, who are raising children, who are wonderful parents.

And I care about them deeply. And so while I’m not prepared to reverse myself here, sitting in the Roosevelt Room at 3:30 in the afternoon, I think it’s fair to say that it’s something that I think a lot about. That’s probably the best you’ll do out of me today. (Laughter.)

The one thing I will say today is I think it’s pretty clear where the trendlines are going.

And then he says shit like what I’m about to show you — and like, is this manipulative? Or is he just trying to dazzle me with poetry like always? Obviously he’d bring up Birmingham JUST LIKE WE DID.

I guess my attitude is that we have been as vocal, as supportive of the LGBT community as any President in history. I’ve appointed more openly gay people to more positions in this government than any President in history. We have moved forward on a whole range of issues that were directly under my control, including, for example, hospital visitation.

On “don’t ask, don’t tell,” I have been as systematic and methodical in trying to move that agenda forward as I could be given my legal constraints, given that Congress had explicitly passed a law designed to tie my hands on the issue.

And so, I’ll be honest with you, I don’t think that the disillusionment is justified.

Now, I say that as somebody who appreciates that the LGBT community very legitimately feels these issues in very personal terms. So it’s not my place to counsel patience. One of my favorite pieces of literature is “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” and Dr. King had to battle people counseling patience and time. And he rightly said that time is neutral. And things don’t automatically get better unless people push to try to get things better.

So I don’t begrudge the LGBT community pushing, but the flip side of it is that this notion somehow that this administration has been a source of disappointment to the LGBT community, as opposed to a stalwart ally of the LGBT community, I think is wrong.

Because, as Milan Kundera so helpfully points out in The Unbearable Lightness of Being, we have no rehearsal for this life; my only option is projecting my experiences from past relationships onto this one in order to predict what might happen next.

“We can never know what to want, because, living only one life, we can neither compare it with our previous lives nor perfect it in our lives to come.” (Milan Kundera)

I have some potential theories for why Obama is being weird, all of which suit my ultimate purpose which is to prove that we should still be together and that he really loves me. Granted, they’re theories that give him a lot of credit, but I remember what it was like when we first fell in love, and I want to get back to that place. We were so hopeful then. We shouted it in the streets.

1) Actions Speak Louder Than Words


Have you ever dated a straight girl without knowing it? I have. She said from the get-go that she was straight. She had not one but two boyfriends. We spent all our time together, fucked, and eventually began fighting constantly. She started the fights, calling me a slut for going on a date, reading my emails to other people about her, taking blows so low they knocked me off my feet. The whole shebang. But I kept clinging to my preconception that she was straight, and tried to understand her motivations based on that starting point. Of course several months after I’d moved out of our apartment, we had drinks and she confessed what was blatantly obvious to everyone else — that she’d treated me like a girlfriend, had expectations of me more like a girlfriend than a best friend. This happens a lot to people, I think.

I’m clinging to what he said, not what he does. Just because he won’t endorse gay marriage doesn’t mean everything else he’s doing doesn’t contradict that. Because it’s incredibly possible — according to a source that I pinky-swore I would not reveal — that what he’s done is appoint two lesbians to the Supreme Court while saying that the courts should decide about gay marriage.

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2) Surprise


This one time I was — I’ll just say ‘dating’ because it’s easier to explain — a guy on Valentine’s Day who refused to get me a carnation. I asked like every fucking day and he said carnations were cheesy and wouldn’t I rather have white roses or something fancy and I was like I WANNA CARNATION as if everything was gonna collapse between us if a carnation with his name on it was not delivered to me during Pre-Calc.

I gotta hand it to him, he put on a good front. And when I got back to my dorm to grab my books before lunch, there was a package for me. It was so large it had to be put in the hall counselor’s office instead of out at the desk. ONE HUNDRED F*CKING CARNATIONS. Seriously one hundred. It pretty much took up my entire room. One hundred!

So maybe he’s just playing it cool right now and then in the second term, Obama is going to totally surprise us with like one hundred civil rights!!!!

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3) I Like You So Much, I Talk to Everyone But You


Obama is a smart, reasonable person. Maybe he figures that it’s just so obvious that he likes us, that he talks to everyone else but us. Because who WOULDN’T like us? We’re flesh and spirit; free animals reckoning with the structure that enables and deters us.

We’re just so obviously “the one”; maybe he shows us that in the sacrifices he makes when we’re not there, rather than the actions we see when we are.

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Maybe he’s just not the man I married, like that scene in St. Elmo’s Fire when Ally Sheedy realizes that John Bender is basically a Republican now and is no longer the liberal renegade she married in college.

Leslie: Alec is becoming a Republican… and he wants to get *married!* Oh, my God!
Jules: I always *knew* he was a Republican!

Maybe all the back talk got to him. Maybe he got scared of losing some of his friends over me and started putting up walls.

But I wanted the rebel on the motorcycle. I wanted risk. I wanted him to have my back all the time no matter what the cost.

Also? He did do this really awesome thing for me just yesterday. It’s 30 minutes long but I promise, it is SO worth it! Ack he’s just so cute sometimes. Idk. He’s a lot nicer than my ex, I can tell you that right now.

Riese is the 37-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key Jewish power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2697 articles for us.

16 Comments

  1. I love this post so much, why aren’t there more comments? Discuss people!*

    *As a non-American I don’t feel I have enough knowledge to properly comment, beyond what I’ve seen/found amusing on The Daily Show. Otherwise I would you know, discuss.

  2. Wow okay so, I wasn’t gonna say anything because, you know, it’s none of my business or whatever, but the other day when I saw that video where he was all, “it gets better,” I totally thought “GOD he is being such an emotional fuckwit with her!” but then I could also totally see why you were still in it. So idk, I guess I’m just trying to say that I get that it’s complicated, and I’m here if you need to talk. Been there, girl.

  3. Pingback: Gay Marriage Watch » Blog Archive » Am I In a Dysfunctional Relationship With Barack Obama?

  4. Amazing beautiful sweet

    I am not angry at obama, he is just one person, even if he is the fucking president of the united states, he can not fix everything with his bare hands

    in fact it’s hard to fix anything when the phone keeps ringing and the first part of your job is to answer it and people want things and don’t know how to operate their televisions/showers/internet and you have to talk them through it one after another all 248 in-house guests and put in their wake-up calls for 630 and tell them the airport shuttle is 24 hours and the restaurant opens at 6 am

    and then it’s been 8 hours and aside from all those guests who are now happily browsing the internet after their hot showers before sleeping to be awoken by a timely wake-up call get breakfast take the shuttle to the airport catch their plane smiling or whatever

    nothing has been accomplished. and your feet hurt because for some reason at this particular bizarre job you must answer the phone dressed all in black, while standing, like you are paying your respects to something that has died

  5. YESS! This exactly how I feel, ALL the damn time! I was a volunteer for the campaign, back in ’08, and I never got to see him live because I was always the one who stayed back at the office when he was in town, but just the other day I got to not only see him in person, but Michelle too AND I shook both of their hands.

    Which, I don’t know, gave me lot of feelings? Because he’s like amazing and he IS better than my “ex” but also he’s like this real person because he shook my hand and it was like, just another person shaking my hand. And I’m just a person and I feel like it would be hard! Being just a person, doing all the things. I still have so much hope!

    But I also have this nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach, all the damn time.

  6. Great article, Veronica. My relationship with Obama is similarly frustrating. I totally understand patience, but it’s hard, you know?

    It usually makes me sad, or at best roll my eyes every time I hear him use the term “civil union”. Because separate and unequal is somehow totally palatable to the queer blogger you are speaking with.

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