When the Supreme Court handed down its decision on Marriage Equality on June 26, I was stunned into a strange sort of silence. I wandered through the print shop where I work--we were in the thick of things with the normal Friday morning rush--and I soon found my way outside to the alley, where I had myself a discreet cry.
For those of us of a certain age, the victory was stunning.
I keep using that word--stunning--but it's the right word.
Standing there by myself, in the alley, I felt overwhelmed and … stunned.
Having grown up in the Seventies in a highly religious environment, being gay was considered so shameful one did not talk about it, much less admit to it. About the worst insult one could hurl at another boy was "faggot." There was quite literally nothing worse.
I knew from an early age that I was one of those faggots. Why, I did not know. Deny it, pray about it, beg God to change me, try to manufacture some sort of interest in girls, curse the gods--I did all that and more, to no avail. My faggotness was wrapped tightly around me like a boa constrictor, never once letting me breathe easy or free or experience sexuality in anything but a tumultuous, desperately unhappy fashion.
Kids like me didn't go to high school proms. We faded into the background, got by, got through, disappeared to some big city or other where there was relative safety in anonymity. Too many of us to count wound up on the streets, on drugs, in jails or morgues.
Years ago, when the push began for Marriage Equality (I am compelled to capitalize it), I felt ambivalent. To my mind, there were more important matters to address. Having been one of those gay kids who sought refuge on the streets, having sold my flesh to survive as so many of those kids do and continue to do, I found it hard to sympathize with older gay men and women who wanted to get married (of all things). It was hard to see the big picture while scraping by on the questionable kindness of strangers.
When the Defense of Marriage Act was struck down a few years ago, the writing was on the wall. Yet I could not bring myself to believe that gay marriage would ever become the law of the land. Perhaps in a few progressive, forward-thinking states, but certainly not in a state like Mississippi. I was not shy about expressing my opinion that I would be deader than Britney Spears' career before gay marriage ever became a fact of life for everyone in these United States.
Not once in my entire life did I expect to marry a same sex partner, to settle down, to buy a house, to make a family, to have a "normal" life.
That's something to ponder: So many folks like me never expected to share the same rights and privileges that most take completely for granted. A little pink house and a white picket fence with a couple of kids in the backyard -- those were meant for others. Never once in my entire life did I ever think such things might be possible for me.
When I read about the decision that Friday morning, I went outside and cried. I said nothing to my coworkers. How could they possibly understand what it meant to me, what I had been through over the course of my lifetime?
I still don't know what to think about the decision. I'm waiting for some court or other to overturn the ruling. I'm waiting for our state legislators to do an end-run around the matter and somehow legislate this new right of mine away. I'm waiting for the governor to sign a magical decree that will make gay marriage go away, at least in the state of Mississippi.
I'm waiting for … well, I don't know what, exactly.
But at least I can breathe a little easier now.
I take great consolation in the idea that marriage will now be a genuine option for younger gay folks. I hope I'm one of the last generations of gay kids who had to escape to the streets, who cheapened themselves for a meal or a place to sleep. I hope today's gay kids can dream about a prince or a princess charming, a little pink house, a white picket fence. I hope they can add to their families by fostering or adopting.
I hope this means that gay kids will find a place at the table of life, that we, as a society, will have learned that throwing away such kids is not the answer. Including them,. loving them, nurturing them, letting them marry, letting them make families of their own--I hope this is what the future holds.
I will never know what my life would have been like had marriage been an option. And I hope I'm one of the last to ponder such a question.