It’s safe to say that my high school matriculation was quite typical of most openly gay teens. That is to say that I often found myself bruised both emotionally and physically. As I walked through the dreary hallways of Oak Park High School, I would quietly chant, “it gets better.” This was many years before Dan Savage took up the charge but it kept my spirits high to imagine how much better my life would be once I graduated.
I wasn’t so blindly optimistic to think that the world outside the confines of my personal Pandemonium was filled with people begging to welcome a recently emancipated gay man. However, it took the swift hand of injustice to sock me into the realization that things would not be so different post commencement.
It was seven years ago, but I still remember the moment when I was told that I didn’t matter. I stared at George Bush through my TV screen and I saw the same look in him that I saw in my many torturers’ eyes. He was cold and calculated. In that moment, he stole all my hope for the future. Even though I’d never fathomed that I would be able to get married, being told that I couldn’t sent a jolt through me. That sudden sobering jerk made conscious of just how bad things really were and it hurt.
Coming to terms with my life in this new, less idealistic, world was a process much like grief. Directly after the speech, I was in shock and it took time before I came to that realization. It took years before I could understand what it was that I was feeling. It wasn’t until last year that I could articulate those feelings, but it wasn’t until today that I had the confidence & strength to say this...
Gay marriage is a human rights issue. The fact is, whether you agree with the behavior or not, homosexual people must have access to the same protections and benefits granted to every heterosexual couple for being married. It is a fact that is not up for debate.
For my government to look me in the eye and tell me that I do not deserve the same rights as my heterosexual cohorts is both insulting and infuriating. I am not a second-class citizen, I do not pay second-class taxes, and I will not accept second-class rights.
Many people say that I should be happy with civil unions, as if Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954) never happened. As if our nation, in a rare moment of solidarity, did not put its foot down and definitively state that separate cannot and will never be equal. I am sure that for some people civil unions may be enough, but the entire idea is simply a degrading attempt to pacify the rabid masses.
What needs to be understood is that this battle affects people in real life, not contestants on a game show. A lifetime supply of second-class citizen is not a consolation prize worth accepting. Especially, if it’s in exchange for giving up a lifetime supply of equality. We must never accept the trimmings and scraps from their table of bigotry.
I’m a sensible person and can concede that there are other, arguably, more important issues facing our country in this moment. However, civil rights are not new issues. We have had every possible chance to rectify this situation of our volition and in that, we have failed.
However, we did succeed at allowing gay marriage to become just another pawn in the political chess game. We also succeeded at denying spousal benefits, hospital visitation rights, child custody rights, tax breaks, and social services to millions of people who rightfully deserve them.
It is with great sadness that my mother has to look me in the eye and tell me that she didn’t try hard enough. I do not want to look into the eyes of the man that I love and tell him that we didn't try hard enough. I don’t want to look in the eyes of my child and tell him or her that daddy try hard enough.
Which is why, I refuse to be a scared little gay boy anymore. In high school my mantra was, “it gets better.” I had a naive idea that if I waited long enough things would change, for the better. However, sometimes sitting back and waiting for a positive outcome is foolish. Sometimes you need to make a stand, to take matters into your own hands in order to make a difference.
So, I am making a stand. I will stand up for what’s right. I will fight and will win. I will be able to tell the man that I love, “I do.” I will be able to tell my child, “I did.” I will know that people I care about will be taken care of. I will know that I made a difference and there is nothing and no one on this earth that will stop me.