Going on a jeep tour… as a marriage equality advocate

By Andrew Eddins
Freelance Contributor,
Freedom to Marry
August 19, 2009

Some of you may have read my post a couple of months ago about re-connecting with high school friends and talking about the freedom to marry. I blogged about stepping outside my comfort zone to discuss marriage equality with people I hadn’t seen or spoken with in years. Sometimes just speaking up is all that’s needed to change minds.

My partner and I spent last week in Sedona, AZ enjoying the striking red rock scenery. One of the highlights of our trip was a jeep tour of the electromagnetic vortex sites for which the area is famous. There is said to be enhanced spiritual energy at these sites to go along with their breathtaking beauty.

Our jeep driver/guide picked us up at our hotel with two husband and wife couples from Texas already aboard. We then stopped at another hotel to pick up a mother and her college age daughter who, we soon learned, were also from Texas (Dallas) as we all introduced ourselves. My partner and I, being from New York City, were instantly the “exotic” members of the group.

At the first vortex site we visited, there was time allotted for meditation and exploration, and I found myself chatting with our guide about his interest in Native American spiritualism and political activism. The conversation segued to me, and sensing a sympathetic ear, I casually mentioned my freelance work at Freedom to Marry.

Back in the jeep on the way to the next site, amid talk about the wonders we had just seen, the guide told the group about his deep commitment to land conservation and Native American rights. He then announced that I had a similar civil rights cause I was involved with. One of the men quite naturally asked, “Oh, what cause is that?”… And there I was again, facing down stereotypes and fear thinking, “A jeep full of Texans in Arizona and I’m going to talk about marriage equality?”

I took a deep breath and plunged in, explaining where I worked and what we were trying to achieve. It was such an absurd moment of full disclosure that I nervously laughed a bit as I added that the group was certainly getting the full "New York" experience on this tour.  At that point everyone laughed as we acknowledged the pre-conceived political notions and nervous energy ricocheting around the jeep.  Happily, as I explained a little more about why marriage matters, though this was clearly outside the group’s normal social conversation, I was relieved to hear general assent coming from everyone.

The tour continued, with my self-outing seeming to have relaxed the group. There was much more laughter and kidding going on, with everyone sharing more of their personal information. We became co-adventurers rather than Texans or New Yorkers, straights or gays. A couple group members took the opportunity to approach me at the remaining sites to ask questions about federal and state positions on marriage equality - questions I was happy to answer.

Our tour ended amid a rare raging thunderstorm, with all of us soaked to the skin and laughing uproariously in the back of the jeep. As each couple climbed out at their hotel, we grinned and said goodnight like old friends. Maybe it was all the "positive vibrations" we had picked up at the vortex sites that put everyone at ease  – but I suspect it was just that communication had once again triumphed over fear.