Today is a beautiful but bittersweet day. Today the Supreme Court struck-down The Defense of Marriage Act–which in essence was not a defense of marriage, but an exclusion of marriage rights for LGBT citizens whose personal lifestyle preferences have no negative effects whatsoever on the lives of their heterosexual counterparts. In tandem, California’s Proposition 8 was sent back to the lower court who had already ruled to strike-down the discriminatory
measure. Voting as to whether or not other people can have the same rights most of their countrymen take for granted is nearly obscene in its stupidity.
Marching toward equality, the strides I’ve witnessed in my six-plus decades of life is so breathtaking as to be dizzy-making. I grew-up in an era when being gay could result in institutionalization, arrest, job loss, housing bias, marginalization, and the most insidious of all: a quiet deterioration of personal self-esteem. That deterioration has led to death by suicide and acts of unspeakable violence against LGBT peoples triggered by ignorance and fostered by misguided religious zealotry.
Deterioration of self-esteem is nothing less than destroying the fabric of an individual’s personal human worth. I came-out as a gay man, shortly after the Stonewall Riots of 1969, at the age of 19. I’ve been openly gay for over two thirds of my life. I’ve lived through bullying and ridicule to see a time when there is hope for future generations to enjoy something closer to full acceptance–but full acceptance is still several generations away, as learned prejudice can be so ingrained in people, that it fades away very, very slowly.
While visiting Rochester, New York in March, I had a conversation with my first college roommate, Albert Robbins. Albert is heterosexual, but has always been a liberal thinking man. Albert knew my late lover, Danny Allen. Albert reminded me while we reminisced, how he had performed an impromptu wedding ceremony joining me with my late lover, Danny Allen. We were a bunch of stoned-out hippies running around the grounds of Mount Hope Cemetery, smoking pot and exchanging rings made from braided grassy weeds. The moment was nearly a throw-away incident in my life–in fact I’d all but forgotten about it until Albert brought it back to the forefront of my memory. Dan and I later legitimized our union by opening a joint checking account. Things have changed a lot in the four decades since Danny died.
Coming from the era in which my generation was raised, gay people were indoctrinated into thinking our lives were not as valid as more acceptable straight-laced folks. We learned those hurtful and damaging “lessons” while pretending to “fit-in” and be something other than who we really were. Something corrosive was always present in the back of our minds–a learned self-hatred that told us we were “less than other people.” It’s taken me most of my life, fighting against those constantly reinforced prejudices–to go against the grain of self-hatred and finally learn to love myself. More importantly, it’s taken me my entire life to understand that I too have been loved in spite of a world that forever told me I was unworthy. Gay and lesbian people are, arguably the longest continually persecuted minority in human history–but we truly will no longer stand for it. We are all uniquely worthy of love, and no one can take that away from us–not even a closely split Supreme Court.
– Disassociated Press, 6/26/2013
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My book, An Early Work Late in Life is available through PixelPreserve for $29.95 plus shipping and handling at: http://www.pixelpreserve.net/bookstore/
I have a reading book/signing Saturday, June 29th at PROUD Bookstore in Rehoboth 149 Rehoboth Avenue. Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971 – 302.227.6969