Oh, how I cried when I read the news today that the Supreme Court struck down both the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Prop 8. This was no single tear gracefully rolling down my cheek – it was a body-shaking flood of relief.
Eyes shut, breath coming in gasps, various thoughts and memories rose and fell in my mind:
My husband and I will be entitled to any number of federal benefits.
Young LGBTIQ people can grow up that much freer from the institutional chains of homophobia.
So many people worked so hard for this moment. So many people who never dreamed of seeing it come to pass. So many people not here to do so.
I’ve known I was gay since I was a tot and have spent my life living out an unsought-after appointment as an ambassador to the straight world – a world where violence, the denial of basic civil liberties, spiritual abuse and tattered families is all par for a course pocked with sand traps and more rough than fairway.
Often that ambassadorship has been a battle – not just with the opposition, but with my own human instinct to succumb to the rage that has burned inside me for decades. It’s an anger born from a hatred of the ignorance that has caused increased suffering for victims and perpetrators alike. There have been many times when I’ve wanted to lash out against people who have worked actively against my freedoms; yet, so far, I’ve managed to maintain a deep, personal conviction to peace, truth and love.
I came out when I was 15 in 1992, right when the AIDS crisis was at its height and gay men were literally dropping dead in veritable heaps. We were diseased people, and death was the wages of our sin. Schools, the government and religious institutions decried our very being as corrupt, and the sense of inherent wrongness that came with this rhetoric led me to a close brush with suicide later that year.
Time passed and I grew with my own understanding of this identity. For a time, I embraced the “I must be born this way, who would choose this?” line of logic, so popular among those of us still mired in shame at being queer. In college, I was a big part of the Lambda League, ASU’s LGBT (no I or Q yet) student union, yelling at the university president in a public forum and organizing a candlelight vigil in honor of Matthew Shepard, who was only one year older than me when he died.
My anger reduced from boil to simmer as the 20s progressed (thank god), yet I found other ways to fight against an intolerant majority in word, deed and even my gender-bending, super queer form of dress that I rolled out for years (I used to douse myself with glitter that I kept in a pot by my front door before heading out…even to the grocery store).
I’ve been yelled at, mocked and threatened from subways to sidewalks. My home and cars have been vandalized with homophobic epithets. I’ve been through some things.
Yet today I know that every moment has been worth it. There is some kid out there who will read the paper and think, “Wait. The government is for me, not against me.” He won’t feel ashamed. He won’t feel wrong. He won’t pull a knife from the knife block in a sunny suburban kitchen and let the tip seductively kiss his wrists.
He’ll call up a girlfriend and go shopping. He’ll meet a cute boy and ask him out on a date. And maybe, one day, he’ll get married without fanfare and with all the insanities that every other marriage in the world is heir to.
Today, the tears continue to roll, and I am renewed.
(The above photo is by Ozier Muhammad/New York Times. Wendy Kennedy embraces her spouse, Deborah Spell, at the famous Stonewall Inn when the news broke today.)