November Editorial – California Marriage & Olivia Cruises

The wife and I got back from an Olivia Cruise to Mexico a few weeks ago (more on that later).

The ship sailed from San Diego, and Olivia organized a party the night before, which doubled as a wedding reception for the 50 couples that got married that day in the city. Many had no family or friends there, since they’d travelled from other parts of the US in order to get married. The shared reception party was so meagre compared to what Jeanette and I had experienced in love and support from our family and friends, that although I was happy for them, I was sad for them as well. We had the opportunity to meet several of those couples on the trip, and so the ‘no on proposition 8’ campaign became more personal to me.

In California, yesterday, people actually voted about whether they were going to discriminate against gay and lesbian people by ammending their state constitution to allow only heterosexual couples to marry. 

My neice, a Mormon, actually joined a facebook group devoted to ‘protecting’ marriage from other lesbians and gays getting to experience it.  What joy to recieve this notification in my facebook family updates.

I did my auntly duty and tried to explain how such groups are promoting hatred and discrimination against me and her aunt, but I don’t think she was convinced. I’d thought that 8 years of witnessing to her and her family that her aunt an I are good, honourable, loving people would have had some effect, and perhaps it has, but not enough.  In the process I came across the best refutation from a Christian religious perspective against this survival of outdated and dodgy cultural practices enshrined in the bible, which still includes such things as a requirement of a widow who had not borne a male heir to have sex with her late husband’s brothers in turn until she bore one. Here’s the link in case you ever need it:  The Mormon church in particular has thrown huge amounts of money and the free labour of an army of devout women and men at enshrining hatred and discrimination.  Shame on them. Who would Jesus deny human rights?

The Proposition 8 decision is too close to call. As of today, according to the “No on Proposition 8” website, there are 3-4 million provisional and absentee ballots left to count, which could make the difference as the bigots are only ahead by 400,000 votes. (For those of you who might think the use of the word bigot is a bit harsh, it appears it’s meaning is derived from the Old English oath ‘bi Gott’ or ‘by god’.) For those interested in updates on this issue, they’re available at:  No on 8 supporters in California are gathering tonight in cities all over the state to share food during the wait.

So, tonight, my heart goes out to the 100+ newlywed women I met on a boat full of 1800 lesbians (and one or two straight women) earlier this month.

Speaking of the boat. I’ve always wanted to go on an Olivia cruise. It was fun but not quite what I’d hoped or expected. First off, all the ship staff were men, with the exception of a couple of women who worked in the salon.  Seriously. All the waiters, cabin stewards, people driving the boat and such were all men. Does Holland America not have any female staff or were they just afraid of us gals?  The presence of guys all the time precluded such happy events as topless sunbathing, but luckily didn’t prevent the couples from kissing or holding hands.

Secondly, I know the tourism industry in the US is suffering from the recession, and it looks like Olivia had some struggles filling the boat (hence the great deal we got on our trip), but the organization was lacking. I’d really love to rave about this historic lesbian run tourism company for lesbians, but unfortunately, I can’t. If the point of giving out some good deals on cruises was to win ongoing customers who’d be willing to pay more, Olivia missed the mark. However, Mexico and the women on the boat were so great, the vacation as a whole was still wonderful.

Compared to the hyper efficient and helpful Holland America staff, the actual Olivia staff seemed un-lesbian in their disorganziation and un-helpfulness. I’m used to lesbian-organized events being better run than average, so this was a bit of shock. For example, the wedding reception party was crowded and there wasn’t enough food or chairs, not enough fuss was made over the new couples individually (would it have killed them to have a ‘annoucing Jane and Marsha from Iowa, together 38 years, married today’ introduction of the newlyweds into the room? Family members were trying to take pictures of the group ‘first dance’ but the floor was too crowded to see everyone.)

I competed in the Olivia Idol competition with an original song about vaginas which went over well. After advancing into the second round, Olivia assigned a surly Olivia staff member who was a dancer to allegedly ‘help’ the finalists get our second song set up . She announced at our ‘rehearsal’ at midnight the night before the finals that we wouldn’t be able to do any of the original songs we’d been practicing for days, and would have choose a song from a Karaoke list. We were then allowed to hear about a minute of this song we’d never heard in order to ‘rehearse’. “No originals, we want is to pop!”. She didn’t help women find a song in the right key, ensuring that they would look and sound like idiots. “Oh, and dress up, people, we want you to look GOOD” she said with a sneer. Three women, lesbian original composers who had performed beautiful, high quality originals (a capella, but still with impact) in the first round, dropped out. I performed the stinking karaoke but was very stressed out, not something I wanted on my vacation. How is it that lesbian composers were suppressed in favour of performing heterosexual pop songs?  To their credit, apparently Olivia is looking at having a separate songwriters showcase if they do it again. The woman who won kicked everyone’s butts, however, performing a powerful and sophisticated version of “I will always love you” that got a standing ovation. Honestly, she would have kicked Whitney Huston’s butt too if she’d been there, she was that good.

One of the best parts was seeing little old lesbians in their 70’s, 80’s and 90’s ballroom dancing every night before dinner. It warmed the cockles, I tell you, and I had the pleasure of dancing with some of them. There were some lesbian performers every night, including Suede (who I’d never heard of, but was a decent soft butch jazz artist), Poppy (a comedian, with a nasty streak), Vicki Shaw (comedian), the Wau Wau Sisters (comedy troupe) and some others. Oh, and there were some sports people too, including tennis star Billie Jean King and a gal who did an interesting (but US-centric) history of [US] women in sports presentation. Olivia also arranged for lesbian-friendly television programming on the in-cabin tv’s, including footage of Billie Jean’s famous ‘battle of the sexes’ tennis match (that I’d never heard about iether) which was a nice touch.

I’m still hoping for a win in California. The thought of being stripped of your marriage by a bunch of bigots is horrific. May justice and equality prevail.