An out gay man since the 1970s, Dennis Wood has personally lived through the many setbacks and victories of the gay rights movement. Drawing on his personal experience of many years, he wrote the post below to share with his Facebook family and friends.
I have spent nearly my entire life bowing under the powers of others who controlled my life. Being a gay man in a straight world, I always felt I had no right to rock the boat.
For the most part I quietly lived my life striving to prove my worth in ways that made others happy. I did this mostly gladly and have many good friends and the love of family because of it. I proved that I am the best “Dennis” I can be. But that has come at a cost. I have shortchanged my own needs and desires to accommodate others who take their rights for granted. I have happily celebrated their marriages and the arrival of their children and shared their milestones with a flourish. I never felt I could, or should, expect even close to the same sort of life others had. Those were my early years…the 1970s to 1990s, to put a timeline on it.
Now most of you know me in the context of being happily married to Jody and of us being the proud parents of Sam. We have been afforded this open life through the many advances made toward the rights of all classes of people.
We have waded through the muck of coming out and risking relationships with our families, the security of our jobs, the fellowship of our church and the protections for our livelihood. Yes, much of this was self-imposed out of fear, but much has had to do with society, in general.
In some very short years we have gained the right to marry. Ours, as many know, was a path of arduous work. We said “I DO” in 2004 only to have it voided and sent to court. We agreed to Domestic Partnership in 2006 in order to garner a few protections our straight counterparts take for granted. We once again said “I DO” in 2008 when Prop 8 loomed darkly over our heads.
Along the way we jumped into parenthood, but had some serious concerns about the protections our son would miss out on that others, once again, take for granted. Finally 2013 brought us a measure of peace and security no one thought we would see in our lifetime. Across the board and around the country, our family was finally recognized to be exactly like others. Of course, we had already felt this from family and friends…that’s not the issue. We NEEDED these reforms in order to simply protect ourselves and our son’s future.
What today’s election results bring to the surface is that we are NOT SAFE. We are NOT SECURE. We are once again going to be walking on pins and needles, wondering who will be working daily to destroy our family. This is a real concern. We are NOT moving forward, we are taking a huge step backwards. My family and many people we know will be hurt.
Our demographic is not the only one at risk. We have hit a turning point where people are once again feeling empowered to spew hate and feel it’s alright to call us names and attack people in broad daylight. As a country we were bringing awareness to those being attacked and killed because of bigotry, but now we risk sweeping any progress under the rug again. I implore us all to maintain momentum on supporting those who cannot fend for themselves.
Yes, I wonder why anyone who knows me or my family might even consider that Donald Trump is even remotely qualified to lead this nation well. Part of me wants to wipe the slate clean of those who chose to vote for someone who wishes I didn’t exist. This is a hard pill to swallow. I will choose to rise above my desire to hit someone hard. Anyone who has seen Steel Magnolias, will remember the scene at the cemetery where M’Lynn wants to hit something out of her incredible grief, then Clairee shoves Ouiser over to her and says “hit her hard!”…well, that’s what I want to do right now.
All this being said, I have always felt that we are more than our politicians…we need to vote with our actions EVERY SINGLE DAY.
We will continue to help our neighbors, we will mentor our youth, we will encourage our families…those who are born to us and those we have chosen.
We will lift a paintbrush or plant some plants. We will clean our canyons and we will support those who are ailing. Every single day we can do something to make our world better.
I refuse to lose momentum because of this “WTF?!?” moment in time. I refuse to return to a time where I worry what others will think when they learn that my spouse is a guy and that we have a child.
I know I am preaching to the choir and we certainly feel the love from people who know us personally. Please don’t become defensive and hurt that I am feeling betrayed. This is about how this election affects my family and my friends in a deep manner.
We must speak out about these realities, and to those who have enjoyed the privilege of living without oppression I ask you to simply put your arms around us and tell us you are here for us. THAT is how we can survive this until all the moving parts fall into place. We have a lot of work ahead of us. Let’s allow love and kindness to prevail, and allow our bruised hearts a chance to heal.
We need to not let this set us back as far as some would wish. A bit of mourning, a touch of circling the wagons and a lot of work moving forward…together.
Photo credit: Stephy Wong Photography