As I sat here on the hot sofa reading my volunteer manual for the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum Complex, the breaking news was being announced. I stopped in my tracks and pumped up the volume on the television. I was already emotional in anticipation, and as the ruling was announced, I burst into tears: SAME-SEX MARRIAGE LEGAL NATIONWIDE. I never thought I would be alive to see this day, for this movement caught fire much faster than I could have ever imagined. I also cried because my partner is not here in the States to celebrate this moment with me.
What does it mean to me and my future husband? Human dignity. For us in the LGBT community, we have been denied the right to live the same existence as heterosexual couples in marriage. No more.
However, this is just the beginning. Just like millions of other LGBT Americans, I will celebrate this epic moment in history. But I know that more challenges await us. Even with desegregation and emancipation, we have evidence, as a result of Charleston, that racial equality is still a fight in which we all need to engage. As a southerner, racism is not over. You can see it in the way several people talk, move, and act around Black Americans. Covert and overt, it’s still loud and clear we have work to do. In the LGBT community, we still have the issue of work place discrimination and equal benefits. In many states, we can be fired on the spot just for being LGBT, regardless of how outstanding our job performance may be. This battle to rectify this wrong will need to be strong and louder than the voices calling us the “Gay Reich.”
Back on April 27, I wrote something very personal about the importance of the SCOTUS ruling and what it personally means to me. I did not blog about it, but instead, I posted it on Facebook. I want to post it here as a message of something from which we, as a society, can learn. It has been my journey and a call to social conservatives to understand our goal. So, here you go….
An Open Letter to the Public, Supreme Court, and Social Conservatives
“The group that owns history possesses the power to impose their worldview or reality upon less powerful groups.” – Derald Wing Sue
Dear Supreme Court, Public, and Social Conservatives:
I am writing a day early because tomorrow, April 28, 2015 is an important day for more than one reason. I have so many thoughts and convictions about the day, and as much as I want everyone to agree with me (don’t we all), I know that is not possible. Many will, and several will not, including family. But this is important to vocalize. I am a southerner by birth, growing up in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas. My family ranges from Pentecostal to Southern Baptist, and we in my immediate family spent a few years as Mormons. During my childhood in the 1980s, it was common to hear my family sing high praises for conservative politicians, conservative values, and Christianity as a focal point in the heart of what mattered most to them. Marching to that tune, I was also witness to some of them belittling others with racial slurs, and some even told of how they had lynchings in the front yard. Meanwhile, I befriended kids of all faiths, races, and nationalities. My best friends were Chinese, Mexican-American, Mexican, Vietnamese, biracial, French, Danish, insecure, American, Jewish, Muslim, Armenian, adopted, of various intelligences and special needs, Afghan, African, African-American, straight, gay, lesbian, Argentine, Christian, obese, skinny, Atheist….and at times, I recall the impact of my family dropping “N” bombs and other racially and ethnically-derogatory words. Imagine how that felt to a gay kid.
Now imagine if that was any different from hearing and experiencing gay slurs targeted at yourself. I grew up in a then, small, predominately white suburb where the high school mascot was the Fighting Farmer. I faced discrimination everyday, and it was traumatizing. I had a family member who bullied me and called me “faggot” at home, and kids at school thought it was cool to follow suit on a daily basis for years. Of course, I’ll never forget the science teacher and coach say in the hallway of my high school twenty years ago that he wished that “God would put all fags on a boat and ship them off to an island.” Or how about one high school peer shoving another gay peer into his locker and calling him a “fucking faggot” right before me and how afraid I was to say or do anything, for doing so would bring back the constant, daily bullying I had received all through elementary and middle school? Or how I will never forget that morning in 7th grade when my worst bully walked up to me one morning in the cafeteria, proudly called me “FAGGOT!” and spat in my face, while I was minding my own business reading. Sounds a lot like a Pennsylvania high school just the week before last. Sounds a lot like the experience of LGBT teens whom lack a network of support and take their own lives. Thankfully, I remember how my brothers used their popularity to creatively put an end to these cruel acts from my peers. Yet, the damage had been done when those bullies’ messages were to stay closeted and hide my identity. I lived in denial, and I did my best to hide myself by dating girls. Despite all of that, I know I could have had it much worse. Yes, something worse than the torture I grew up knowing as normal. That is not being true to life and noway to live.
Things did get better. As I grew up, I continued to expose myself to other cultures. Right before my senior year of high school, I made the brave decision to come out to my mom and Pop. I received love and acceptance from both of them. Granted, Mom said she knew I was gay from the moment I was born and always looked for ways to support me emotionally, and later on, my biological dad said he also knew I was gay from the second I came into this world. Life was a little rough when my Pop aimed to get me into Boy Scouts. Before I even came out, he tried as hard as he could to change me, so I would not have to face the daily torture. He wanted me to be tough, but I was sensitive. Eventually, he realized that his tactic to change me and toughen me up was not working. I would not change, and he accepted me as gay…unconditionally. It was then that I fully accepted him into my life as well.
With these positive responses to my self-acceptance and truth, I went away to college, one that was known for being openly accepting to LGBT individuals. I traveled the globe, learned Spanish and Portuguese, lived abroad, lost my Portuguese, and continued to expose my mind to the world. All the while, I was loving my diverse group of friends, and people saw that I was no different than them. Shoot, all my friends in college were of another race, both sexes, and straight. I was the only “homosexual.” I followed, and continue to be, an avid fan of sports. I admit that I was more privileged than most kids. My undergraduate degree was paid for by my parents, and when my Pop passed away at the age of 50, he left me a fund to get my master’s degree and take a sabbatical. He encouraged me to continue traveling the world and to tell my story to help others, after I had already studied and lived in Argentina. I never got a loan, but I did earn a scholarship…albeit a small one. He provided everything I needed from the time I was three.
That’s right. Pop was not my biological father. He never had biological children of his own. He married my mother and her three sons. They were both 25, with kids of ages 8, 6, and 3,where I was the baby of the bunch at three, and he considered us as his own children. He hated sports, was a picky eater (while the rest of us were more adventurous), and was part owner of a small, family business. He was a Republican.
As a confused child, however, I rejected him, and honestly, he had a bit of a temper for many years. One time, he punched a hole in the wall over a Wendy’s burger, where they mistakenly put all the toppings on it. The verbal outrage could be frightening, but he never called me the notorious F word. This man evolved through therapy. As he worked on his issues and I worked on mine, we eventually blossomed and connected as father and son, especially after my coming out. He valued my love for culture and travel, and it is something we shared. He loved traveling to Costa Rica, and I was all over Europe and South America. In fact, he surprised me when he conducted his own research for my final-semester project in journalism school– ironically, the gay stereotypes in the media. He handed me a stack of papers he had printed out on the subject. The day I graduated, he drove me by himself to the ceremony. We were able to spend very important, quality time alone. I’ll never forget how we walked along the LBJ Presidential Library, and he announced how proud he was of me. I hugged him and told him how much I loved him. I had no idea how significant this moment would turn out to be. By the time I was graduating from college, my parents’ marriage was in shambles, and we endured a nasty divorce. I stood by my Pop. He stood by me.
Graduation Day in 1999 was the last day my family would be together. I graduated, and a month later, he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. My mom went off the deep end, and the divorce was imminent. But as I previously mentioned, I stood by him, as did my brothers, when our mom left our lives. He was left in debt and a state of depression. A few years later, as his cancer progressed, we took a father-son trip to San Francisco. Along our drive in Napa, he finally expressed his own life-long pain. He told me how worthless and useless he felt, ever since he was a child. Immediately, I pulled the car to the side of the road, and I looked at him and said, “Pop, I hear that you feel that your life is worthless and has no meaning, but you mean the world to me. You are not worthless. Your life has meaning. You are worth everything, and you have given me so much. I am proud to call you my dad. I love you!” He would survive two more years, and just before he went into hospice care at the end, my oldest brother and I drove him out to Dublin, Texas so he could buy 60 cases of Dr Pepper, his favorite. The image of him sitting upfront and me behind him, putting my hand on his shoulder as he struggled to breathe, is forever sketched into my heart. I knew time was ticking. A week later, again, I looked at him in the hospital and pronounced that same love for him that I did in Napa. In the only way he knew how, not being a very affectionate person, he looked at me and kicked my feet, showing me that he loved me too. He could not speak very much, but he did utter the words, “I love you too.” We cried. When he passed on August 26,2004, we handed out the remaining Dr Peppers at his funeral.
Through knowing each other and unconditional love, this one-time socially and fiscally conservative evolved into a supporter of all equal rights, especially gay rights and changing the health care system. He saw how the system was oppressive and hateful. He suffered that whole time we were in San Francisco because he was out of medicine, and California would not refill his interstate prescription. Today, the Justices of the Supreme Court embark on a historic journey in hearing the cases on marriage equality. Today, my Pop would have turned 61. While he was imperfect and wounded, he instilled in me the importance of being genuine. He asked me to use my story – my life – to speak up to educate people and change the world. Knowledge is power, and it is time to create a balance.
The past eleven years have flown since his passing, and we have come to a point in history where the majority of Americans support marriage equality and equal protections for the LGBT community. To the public, I thank you so much for that…from the deepest part of my heart. My Pop has missed this moment in time, and he has missed the chance to meet my boyfriend, whom will soon become my husband this year when we hold our ceremony in a hostile Texas, even though we now live on the East Coast.
To my socially-conservative counterparts, know that I shared just a small piece of my story, and that there are so many more out there. I wonder how much of these beliefs and values you share are a result of misguiding politicians and leaders. I devoted my entire graduate school research to LGBT issues, including being LGBT and religious. Our community includes a wide range of diversity under one umbrella. To understand the differences amongst us in one essay is impossible. As for myself, I am strong as a result of the love and support from my family, but so many in the LGBT community have suffered more extreme psychological trauma from overt statements and acts of violence…and even short, non-verbal acts we call microaggressions (e.g. “That’s so gay,” “Queer,” “Homo,” etc.). These are projections thrown at LGBT citizens on a daily basis, just as racial slurs have been tossed at African-Americans. These have, more often than not, come from the far right politicians and community, whom have added the terms pedophiles, evil, Nazis, liberal fascists, ISIS, and sex-crazed bullies that are destroying society. Think about that. Do you realize that Hitler and the Nazis also committed genocide against gays, so how would we even be Nazis or members of ISIS? When we look at the history of civilization, there is a common thread – religion. It has been the cause of cultural wars throughout time. I have noticed that religious persecution has been the argument used against us, but our forefathers came to this land to escape religious tyranny. That’s the same religious tyranny the LGBT community is standing up against. Now, I am not arguing to ban religion. I am simply arguing against using religion as a weapon. Further, I implore you to learn the facts of pedophilia, sexual abuse and promiscuity. Yes, those do exist in our community, but statistically-speaking, there’s a rather high percentage of each amongst heterosexuals. Know that pedophilia is about control and power, not sexual attraction.
Now, socially-conservative citizens and politicians tend to argue there is a gay agenda, forcing our views down your throat and making you participate in our “perverted lifestyle.” I am afraid that is giving the LGBT community way too much credit. Somehow there is this false analogy that the fight for equality is forcing you into having gay sex or participate in our ceremony. I do not want you to jump in the sack with me or kiss me, and I am not asking you to be my best man. My life is just as boring and exciting as yours. I go to the movies. I cook dinner. I stay at home with my partner on weekends, caring for our furry children (which my Pop so lovingly referred to our four dogs growing up). I go on vacation. I am a consumer and citizen of the United States. I have spiritual values and beliefs. I am educated and have a master’s degree in counseling, and I read conservative and liberal media. I know this to be true as a result of research and from my experience as a minority. Not ALL Christians and NOT ALL Republicans or conservatives agree that LGBT rights and gay marriage will doom society. I have traveled to twenty countries outside the United States, and I have met, listened to, and built relationships with people of all beliefs around the globe. I have many Republican and Christian friends who support LGBT rights. I went through my own evolution and exposure to more conservative thinkers to understand that this is not a Republican issue any longer, even though the Republican Party has been the launching pad for religious power. When you look at the big picture, the socially-conservative have historically held all the cards in this country. It is a system, and this system has been oppressive, which I say more as a moderate individual. This “gay agenda” is not to hold power over you. Our “agenda” is to stand up and have a voice at the table…and not be dismissed as fifth-class citizens and told by those in power that staying in the closet is acceptable rather than living in a loving, same-sex relationship. Do you know that coming out is not a one-time event? If we choose anything, we choose to come out every time we are introduced to new people and courageously stop using gender-neutral pronouns to conceal our identity and partners, out of fear of being fired, bashed, condemned to hell, or killed. And going back into the closet to please people whom are uncomfortable with us…well, that is far much worse and damaging than living life openly and happily. That closet and rejection is often connected to promiscuity, which is just as likely in a heterosexual. In a lifetime of millions of experiences, the coming out experience becomes frightening, until you reach a point when you cannot allow that to stop you any more, just like Bruce Jenner. I may not have the same experiences as Jenner, nor am I transgender, but I have true admiration for the courage it took for her to come out under such a major spotlight. You see, you have members of our very community on your political side, and thinking as a politician, I wonder if you have asked yourself these very important questions. What am I NOT doing to gain more support? Why am I so uncomfortable with what other people do with their own lives?
Turning your back has fatal consequences. The LGBT community has not enjoyed the same privileges that you have experienced. LGBT teens are committing suicide from the harm that has been spewed in the name of God, and transgender men and women are beaten, tortured, and murdered at high rates. In Texas, homeless, transgender teens rejected by family are refused a place in shelters, so they live on the streets and resort to prostitution to survive. Many of the right-wing faith seem to judge the behavior rather than understand its roots. Many right-wingers apparently think this exclusion, violence and suicide is okay. Otherwise, we would have already had nationwide LGBT protections for hate crimes and discrimination in the work place and health care. In fact, you vote for leaders that pass legislation to welcome such dehumanizing tactics. For example, not allowing my partner to visit me as a family member in the hospital in Texas, should I need to be hospitalized, or to make medical decisions on my behalf. No, he has to be considered a “friend” under the law. Or allowing the RFRA in promoting legalized refusal of LGBT people. These acts, all based on religious beliefs that are truly misguided, manipulated, and misinterpreted views of whom we truly are, are not acceptable or humane, but are the realities we as members of the LGBT community must encounter every day. The reality that you live is not the reality of the vast majority of the world, yet it is imposed upon everyone. Not even the American Dream resolves that issue can alleviate that, unless we give up our values for money and sell our souls to the devil. We are people. We love. We laugh. And God is on our side in this battle. The LGBT “agenda” is to protect lives, and the intolerance you say you see in us is merely a community refusing to be painted as less than you.
I know you fear being marginalized and pushed out by society, which is a very lonely, frightening, and unbearable feeling. I get it. Boy, do I know that feeling! How do you think we have lived? Please, let that simmer for a bit. Your politicians and religious leaders have worked diligently to marginalize us.
Fear is no way to live. This is no attempt to marginalize you and push you out of existence or keep you from practicing your faith. Personally, I do not believe in a God that I should fear. However, I say keep your faith, but clean your lens so that when you do talk to us, see us, and hear us, you may not agree but still see a human deserving of the same shot at life as yourself. I get that for many of you, this feels foreign and is part of a generational gap. I actually find myself sometimes wondering about music and clothing of today’s youth, but I will not support legislation to stop them just because I do not agree with their style or like it. This is a plea for you to listen, love, and let others live. If liberty for all Americans is your voice, then choose inclusion rather than being selective of whom gets to have those liberties. Stop spreading unfounded hate and fear. We already have allies who do not agree with being LGBT, and they are still able to practice their faith….because they practice their love for all people and understand that the Bible and Politics being enmeshed is not how this country was founded.
To the Justices of the Supreme Court, you have a chance to see the humanity that we are as LGBT individuals, being no different from yourselves and the rest of society. Will legalized marriage simply put an end to discrimination against us? I doubt it. I presume that the separate-but-equal mentality will continue, as evidenced by Texas trying to ban local and state funding to any person whom officiates a same-sex wedding, even if gay marriage should be legalized nation-wide. However, now…today…is the moment to start a positive change, and I know the rest will continue to be a fight, just as civil rights and race continue to be. For the sake of all of humanity, we will not back down and accept the hateful bans. We can’t afford to. We will continue to need to stand up and fight. Starting today, you can change the course of history and time. You cannot change the minds of people – that happens over time, but you can acknowledge the value in our love and in our lives by making same-sex marriage a right under the constitution.
This is a day to celebrate love. I know I am loved by my fiancé, by family, by my mom (now back in my life), by friends, by God, and by my Pop, regardless of their personal beliefs because they see beyond that and know that sexual orientation does not make a person. And personally, I celebrate how one person could evolve, fight for his gay son and leave a lasting legacy for his sons and family. How I would love to have him back and toast to his 61 years! We all want to leave such legacies. This is a birth day…a very important, and special, birth day, in more than one sense.
To my Pop, with love, honor, and courage. To everyone else, love can’t wait. Live and let live.
#SCOTUS #RightWing #lovecantwait #marriageequality #CathieAdams #BillArmistead #FranklinGraham #SenatorSteveKingofIowa #tedcruz #HRC #Texas #SCOTUS