This post is late because I’ve been afraid to write it. I wanted to write about this week’s Supreme Court hearings about gay marriage, but I was afraid. I have some strong feelings about this and I do worry about alienating readers who feel differently. But then I realized that maybe there were some things I could say that would make it easier to understand where I’m coming from, as a woman, a mother, and an ally to many LGBT friends and family members.
So I’m coming out… as someone who used to be homophobic.
Believe it or not, there was a time when I thought that homosexuality was wrong. I had long conversations with friends in my high school cafeteria about the Bible, and how it said that homosexuality is a sin, and how two people of the same sex being together was just gross. When I remember those conversations, I cringe with embarrassment, but also with regret – I’m pretty sure that some of the people with whom I had these arguments are now openly gay, themselves. These were my friends. And I made them feel as if they couldn’t be their true selves in front of me.
My parents weren’t particularly anti-gay, but I’m sure they were hesitant to jump up in support. And so, they let me go out into the world with this warped view and spew it to anyone who would listen. I worked part-time through high school and one day a coworker at the deli where I was a cashier had had enough of my bigoted rhetoric and he came out to me. I was forced to reconcile all that I had done and said, because this person was my friend and now I had a face to put with this group of people I had been condemning.
Two years later, I was off to a liberal women’s college in Massachusetts. I consider my four years there to be the most formative years of my life. I am surrounded now by a group of friends that is diverse, intelligent, and talented…and yeah, many of my college friends are LGBT, but it’s never been something that mattered in our relationships because I love them for everything they are. I’ve been exposed to a world way beyond my front door and to be quite honest, I think that’s what it takes to help people understand the beauty of love in its purest form, without concern for what parts are involved.
Some might say that I am overcompensating for a certain level of guilt over how I used to be, and there might be a tiny bit of truth to that. I have marched in pro-gay demonstrations, attended countless Pride parades, worn more rainbow stuff than you could ever imagine existed, and reposted every LGBT-supportive meme that crosses my newsfeed on Facebook. But these things are not the things that have had the greatest impact on me. Here’s what has: seeing the looks of absolute dedication in the eyes of my two best friends from college as they said their vows in a park in Northampton, MA, just months after the legalization of gay marriage in that state; watching children, flourishing and happy, grow up with two parents that love them who just happen to be of the same sex; knowing that my son will most likely come of age in a time when his sexuality is his own to discover, without punishment or derision from anyone, especially his government.
I’ve lost touch with that friend who first came out to me all those years ago, but if I could find him I would thank him profusely for doing what my parents’ generation was still too afraid to do and forcing me to look beyond my own experience. He forced me to come up with valid arguments for homophobia (I couldn’t, of course) and to see love between two people as something which cannot be dictated by others. Because of him, because of all who have been as courageous as he was that day, Charlie will have a life rich with diversity and acceptance. My greatest hope is that his generation will grow up not knowing what homophobia is, much like how my generation came of age after large scale racial segregation ended.
And here I am at the end of my post without even talking about the Supreme Court’s decisions. Maybe it’s because I feel that the responsibility for making things right lies equally with all of us as it does with the justices. I shared my story to show that change is possible – we owe it to the generation behind us and I hope that the Supreme Court will agree.
“Marriage is a vital social institution. The exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other nurtures love and mutual support; it brings stability to our society. For those who choose to marry, and for their children, marriage provides an abundance of legal, financial, and social benefits. In return it imposes weighty legal, financial, and social obligations….Without question, civil marriage enhances the “welfare of the community.” It is a “social institution of the highest importance.” Marriage also bestows enormous private and social advantages on those who choose to marry. Civil marriage is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family…. Because it fulfils yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, civil marriage is an esteemed institution, and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life’s momentous acts of self-definition….It is undoubtedly for these concrete reasons, as well as for its intimately personal significance, that civil marriage has long been termed a “civil right.”"
Massachusetts Supreme Court
Goodridge v. Dept. Of Public Health, introduction by Massachusetts Supreme Court Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall
(As read at my wedding in September 2008)