What DOMA and Prop 8 Mean to Real People and Families
On my 13th birthday I outed my dad as a homosexual. It was after an over the top birthday party that I bratted out of my parents, because I went to a predominately Jewish school and was jealous of everyone's Mitzvahs (yea, I know). Naturally it ended up being wildly unconventional, because we've never done a normal nuclear thing ever. They had rented out a Nashville nightclub, and all the pre-teens didn't really know what to do with that. The kids went home early, and all of my parents' music industry friends from their years touring the country singing together stayed until they kicked us out.
The party had moved back to our house, and as guitars came out on the patio, I was sitting on the bathroom counter watching my dad brush his teeth. The conversation shifted to whether or not Johnny Depp or Brad Pitt was hotter, because I was 13-years-old and those were the dilemmas that consumed me. My dad didn't just let me go on pontificating, he chimed in with his opinion. I remember no thought process at all, just the words, "Daddy, are you gay?" bubbling out of me. He spit toothpaste all over the mirror and smiled, we hugged, and then our lives changed. Very soon after my parents divorced, and we've been living as an even more unconventional family ever since. But that's the point, we're still a family.
Even though I grew up in one of the more liberal cities in the South, and went to the most liberal-minded private school in that city, that doesn't mean that it wasn't incredibly difficult to be honest and proud of our situation, for all of us. In middle school when the rumor finally got around, a group cornered me outside while the biggest bully in our class (literally the most overweight, flagrant jackass whose parents donated the most money to the institution) asked me point blank, "Did your parents get divorced because your dad's a fag?" My skin got hot with more shame than embarrassment because I denied it.
Ultimately kids will bully others for anything that sets them apart, and I know my gay friends had it a lot worse than I did. It's been frustrating then, as parts of the country have slowly come around to having a modicum of acceptance, when people now approach me about my dad like he's a fashion accessory. Some people want details, ask if I'm adopted and use alien terms like "biodad." The worst kinds of people are the ones whose eyes widen, making visible their tiny brains as they make the assumption that this somehow makes me “cooler.”
At least they're not homophobic, but still, me having a gay dad is no different from you having a neurosurgeon for a mom, a kindergarten teacher for a dad, a famous parent, a recovering drug addict for a mom, a minister for a dad, or a Veteran dad with PTSD; it's not a third arm, it's my family. And before some d-bag twists that into me saying that being gay is the same thing as having PTSD or a drug addiction, I'm not saying that those things are the same. I am pointing out that they are realities that are stigmatized, and shouldn't be fodder for other people's small imaginations.
Pride does add an interesting aspect to the argument though. In fully embracing the "we're here, we're queer" attitude, sometimes I think that the gay community has stigmatized itself further. I love myself a fishy queen just as much as the next fruit fly, and celebrating that outlandish irreverence and individuality is the best celebration there is, but there's a line that's often crossed because when you’ve blatantly and cruelly ostracized a group of people they're going to finally say "f*ck you, watch this." And by god they should.
But for example, I went to the first ever Folsom East festival in New York City in the summer of 2011. Naturally being a leather festival, it's going to get raunchy, and I say bring it on. But sandwiched in an alley in the west village in the middle of the day, the live show got a little out of hand. As I watched one man perched on stage simulate giving another a rim job, I looked up to the High Line, to see the Sunday brunch crew, tourists and white families all leaning over the side of the railing, taking pictures, mouths agape. In the words of the Hustler slogan, I agree we should all, "Relax, it's just sex." But that openness to not being a big, Waspy prude isn't what we should advertise until they all let everyone get married (neither is the kind of aggressive "agenda" that gay rights activist Ellen Sturtz allowed to show when she interrupted Michelle Obama's speech at a fundraiser).
And this brings me to the most important part, SCOTUS actually did a productive thing this week. A historical thing. A monumental thing. And overturned some of the most disgusting anti-gay legislation ever passed. It's maybe the biggest step forward for the gay rights movement ever. But for as much joy and happiness as that should bring anyone fighting for equality, the fact that such a stagnant move is a triumph just shows how far we still have to go. The Supreme Court didn't technically do anything, they undid something. We can't look a gift horse in the mouth, but we also have to remember that there's still a long fight ahead, and it won't be over until everyone in this country has the equal rights.
Something that made me realize this even more is the way that a handful of my gay friends have become aggressively indifferent to the movement for equality. It's clear that having lived their entire lives in a world where coming out is becoming increasingly common and discussed (with outlets like the It Gets Better campaign and growing numbers of LGBT resources at least in urban areas), only to be met with actual laws that convey that part of the country and the government sees them as second class citizens, it's easy for them to become jaded to the point of removal. They've come to see certain rights as unattainable and therefore view the people who fight tirelessly for them, or in certain cases get to enjoy them and flaunt that, as silly. It's one way to look at it. I get frustrated with them when we discuss the matter, but their perspective is one I will never know. As a white woman I was born with a societal duty to get married, the idea of someone actively stripping me of that right is entirely impossible for me to imagine.
And some people will continue to reduce the issue. They'll bring up things like how at least it's not illegal to be gay anymore, and why would gay people want to marry anyways when it's such a hetero institution. Well, you poor souls, homosexuals want to get married for the same reason everyone else does, it is the highest societal expression of love, it is how we define the start of a family, it is how you make someone your family. Just the way people look down on my family for being modern, or a young gay person becomes resentful of the institution as a whole, denying gays the right to marry is what causes those internalizations, and allowing them to marry but receive none of the federal benefits that straight couples receive is an even more sinister filter.
By denying gay people the right to marry we somehow suggest that their mere participation, however independent and personal, is toxic to the institution itself (dear Michele Bachmann, you are a bastion of hate, go away). People are people and love is love. My father loves me, and he also has a boyfriend who he loves, and I do as well. My parents are divorced because of that and still share a deep connection of love. My best friend loves his boyfriend, and in having the privilege of witnessing their love, they have taught me about love. My friend’s gay moms love her and her sister exponentially, and sound like one of the most functional families I’ve ever learned of. I’ve actually known a lot more people in positive, successful and loving gay relationships than straight ones. Not only does the GLBTQA community make the secular world a better place full of love, we also throw the best damn party you straights and haters will never go to. It's time to usher in the 21st century, guys, paint it rainbow, and get over it already.