The Long, Long March to Freedom
As soon as my iPhone pinged, I knew without looking that the Supreme Court had validated our thirty-year marriage. To misquote Martin Luther King, Jr., “Married at last! Married at last! Thank God Almighty, we are married at last!” And so the first person I called was my husband.
“They did it! We’re married!”
“That’s great. But I have to go drop Aidan off at Zoo Camp.” And before we knew it, life was back to normal. We have gay marriage, so we can go back to re-financing our gay mortgages, and filling up the gas on our gay cars and getting our gay La-Z-Boy sofa fixed and drop our non-gay sons off at Zoo Camp.
When I was a boy, gay did not exist. At least not in South Ozone Park. Never met one until just before my 10th birthday, when we went to a party in New Jersey, and Uncle Eddie dismissed the brother of a cousin’s new wife as “queer as a three-dollar bill.” But it was the first time that I knew a word for how I was different. I went home and tried to look it up in the dictionary and in the encyclopedia, but it was “the love that dare not speak its name.” In 1970, my older brother had a copy of “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask),” and when everyone was gone, I snuck it off to the basement and read the chapter about homosexuality. Dr. Reuben described that all gays were victims of depression and loneliness. And I thought, “I don’t want this. I want a normal life.”
But years passed and I fell in love my senior year of college, and got my heart broken by a guy who left me for the priesthood, but the one thing I got out of that affair was the sure and certain knowledge that I was gay. So I jumped in feet first, joined the gay student union, and led coming-out groups through the Pink Triangle Collective.
All of those years of learning about social justice had taught me that I had to fight for my own justice, and so I joined the National Gay Task Force, a week before it became the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Liberation became my social life, and a year later, my best friend Amanda and I set up an ironing board on Christopher Street, and that helped fund the first national AIDS hotline. As the crisis grew worse, we joined ACT UP and Queer Nation, and shut down bridges and intersections and even stopped a federal inquisition by wearing clown’s masks, eventually forcing the FDA into parallel track testing, and a path away from all the death that we knew in the late eighties. And it was Amanda who suggested that we volunteer for the Pink Panthers soon after that.
In 1981, I marched in my first Pride March. Twelve drag queens and I walked through the streets of Ann Arbor, Michigan, My future husband joined me in 1985 and has been marching with me ever since. My son Zane took his first footsteps ever at the San Francisco Pride March in 2004. And Aidan joined us in 2006. One year, Dykes on Bikes made them honorary hog riders. We have been marching this long road to freedom and now we have arrived.
Oh, the war is not over. There is still employment discrimination and there are still Confederate flags somewhere and I still don’t take my gay husband and mixed-race children to visit my father-in-law in Idaho, because, well, it’s Idaho.
But just for today. Just for today, five out of nine Supreme Court justices think that “[n]o union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family … They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”
I am profoundly grateful that I live in a world where our lives are now as normal as dropping our son off at Zoo Camp.