There have been thousands upon thousands of things written on what I lovingly refer to as #SuckItDOMA over the last two days. Of all the issues of the day, however, it’s my No. 1, and I couldn’t not weigh in.
I went to high school in a very white, very conservative town. I had a wonderful high school experience, however, and when it came time to graduate, I truly thought I would miss everything about it: My senior year, I was editor of the high school newspaper. I was secretary of Mu Alpha Theta, a math honors society. I was in National Honors Society. I participated in these groups enough that they took me to NYC, to Kansas City, to Washington DC, to day trips all around Ohio.
I went to all my dances with a date, be he a friend or boyfriend, and I cleaned up pretty well for a girl who had not yet discovered the miracle of tweezers.
However, despite my wonderful experience, I knew my town was a bubble, and if I was ever going to be a “real grownup,” I needed to leave that bubble and experience other things.
The freshman girl who entered Kent State University had never done a lot of things. She’d never done a drug or smoked a ciggie. She’d never held a drivers license. She’d never been drunk.
And she’d never met an openly gay person.
I was the kind of high schooler who used the word “queer” to actually mean “odd.” One summer, I was at a pool with my friends Amy (of the combo Homecoming date) and Eric, and Eric went under water, sticking one foot out, which his toe pointed all funky. I told him he had such a queer foot. I truly meant that he had an odd foot.
“Don’t ever say that to me again,” said Eric, who was much too young to be out of the closet. Obviously, I had a crush on him, because what high school girl in a bubble hasn’t had a crush on a wildly gay, wildly closeted boy?
In college, I immediately got on the campus newspaper, which tended to draw lots of gays (you want acceptance? Go visit a college newspaper. It’s wonderful). It took me a few years to feel comfortable around any person of a different sexuality. I didn’t think they were icky, to borrow a phrase from George Takei, but it’s easy to feel uncomfortable around something you’ve never experienced.
My sophomore year, my friend Mandy started a new campus magazine, “Fusion,” which focused on LGBT issues. Ever the good little newspaper journalism student, I got on staff. For my first story, I pitched an idea that had always, always fascinated me: The gay Christian. it seemed an oxymoron. How could a person follow a religion whose text is so hateful of his or her lifestyle?
For research, I attended a United Church of Christ church service about 25 minutes from campus. The pastor was a lesbian, and the church identified as open and affirming, meaning it would never turn away a congregant for his or her sexuality, and it participated in educational programing on gays and gay rights.
After one service, many members of the congregation went to the basement for a lunch and potluck. Like the population of many Christian churches, this was a group of older people. As I talked to them, I realized they were just like any other sixtysomething human beings I’d ever met. I felt my worldview widen a bit. The blinders I never chose to put up widened a little. They were the product of growing up in a bubble and as much a part of me as my fingers. Unlike my fingers, however, it did not hurt to have them ripped off, which they were on the car ride back to campus.
I rode back with a photographer, Samara, who was shooting my story. Samara was in a relationship with another woman on “Fusion,” and on Jaclyn’s Short List of People Who Changed Her Life, she’s on it.
I started to talk to Samara, to ask questions I was always embarrassed to ask, as they’re the kinds of things you tend to talk about with close friends only: romantic relationships. Samara told me how nervous she was the first time she picked up her girlfriend, and how she held open the car door for her, and the door to the restaurant. She told me how she fretted over who would pay — would they go dutch? Or should she pick up the bill? She told her how she loved to receive flowers from her girlfriend, and how sweet their first kiss was.
Very suddenly, I had an epiphany: Her gay relationship was just like my straight relationships. There was no difference. Nada. Zilch.
Ohhhhhhh, now I get it.
When I heard the news Wednesday that the Defense of Marriage Act had been deemed unconstitutional and struck down, I teared up a little. It makes my insides hurt that some people’s love can possibly be deemed second-rate. And never mind the stupidity of calling such an act “The Defense of Marriage.” If people want to marry, doesn’t that support marriage? What is marriage if not two people who want to create a life together? So what if gay people can’t make babies. I’m never going to make a baby with my husband; does that mean we shouldn’t have been allowed to get hitched, either?
When I checked the news yesterday morning, still feeling happy about #SuckItDOMA, I saw a headline about the next step. The next stop. God. This is not even close to ever. Overturning DOMA is like a teeny little baby step on the journey up a mountain to full-on rights. As an Indiana resident, my coworker’s wife still can’t receive her benefits. A best friend, who had one of the most beautiful weddings I’ve ever attended and looked like a bridal model, may have a road trip from her Illinois home to Iowa because of some of the still up-in-the-air questions:
” … the Obama administration will have to provide guidance on how the government will treat same-sex couples who were legally married in another state and now live in Illinois. It’s possible, she said, that those couples will now have federal recognition.” ~The Chicago Tribune
I am a fair-minded person. I see a lot of gray in a lot of divisive issues. I might be entirely pro-choice, but I completely understand why a person would be against abortion. I might be wildly against the death penalty, but I can logically comprehend why people would want to see a murderer and rapist cease to be.
This issue? Nope, sorry. With gay rights, there IS a right and a wrong — as there will always be when the issue is equality.