I am 24 years old. I am a man; I am gay. I have been out of the closet for a mere five years, and in that time, I've had a slew of boyfriends. For the last 3 years, I have been married, in spirit if not legally.
Eighteen years of my life were spent in Texas, the nineteenth state to pass an explicit ban on gay marriage. Currently, I live in Kansas, the eighteenth to do so. Each of those states has their share of infamy. Texas, of course, is home to the Lawrence case. Kansas is home to Fred Phelps. They both have something in common: gay people live in both states despite the discrimination faced on a daily basis. Gay people thrive in both states. We live and love and laugh there. What's more, gay people live in every state, and did so even when we there were no protections, even when the idea was inconceivable.
Now, I can't claim to understand what it must have felt like to have been gay and out in those times. I doubt I could make that claim now. I donate money when I can, volunteer if I feel it necessary, I may even instigate an argument if I think it might benefit someone watching, but I am not a leader. I am out only in the sense that if someone were to ask me if I am gay, I would not, would never, lie. I would not conceal the truth. I would not deny what my husband means to me. Other people have sacrificed too much for me to be reticent in this regard. As the saying goes, “silence = death.”
Yet I am ashamed at not being as forthright as I think I could be. When we are out running errands, we usually walk side by side, and that gap feels all the larger for what it represents. There are many times when I see a heterosexual couple holding hands and wish I had the courage to close that gulf between us by the defiant act of lacing my fingers through his. The few times I've put aside any niggling, gnawing apprehenions, it was a terrifying, liberating experience.
I remember every look we've gotten when I've done that.
Despite knowing that other people's bigotry isn't my fault, I still feel a twinge of fear doing that, all the more so when I lived in Texas. That fear is just one reason why I tend be very discreet in my conduct. Often times, when someone learns of my sexual orientation, the first thing they say to me is, “But you don't act gay.”
And I think living my life as I see fit, honestly, if not loudly, is the best thing I can do.
There is no doubt in my mind that I could do more to strip off the insidious conditioning I've absorbed in any number of ways, but I've seen concrete results from doing what I've always done. In the past, I've had several people confess to me that, upon first learning that I am gay, they were uncomfortable around me. As time passed, that feeling diminished before vanishing all together.
I don't feel I need to do more. By living my life, I've changed people. I didn't have to argue, I didn't have to march in a parade or cheer at a rally. I didn't have to donate money or time. All it took was being human.
Just living my life.
That is why the bigots lost this battle before it even began. That is why they will have lost even if the Constitution is amended to codify their hatred.
Even if those wretched initiatives in California and Florida pass, there is no returning to the day before. People will know that gay people exist. They will know that we are just like them, that we value the same things they do in large part. There is nothing that can change that.
Even in the most hostile of climates, we lived our lives.
Even when faced with overt, unpunished violence, we lived our lives.
Even when faced with the most unconscionable of consequences, we lived our lives.
Even now, we live our lives.
If every state were to pass laws like the ones up for vote in Califnornia and Florida, the battle is lost in the most important way: we are still here. We have weathered the most terrible of times and survived. If those laws pass, we wil survive. We will continue to live our lives. In our own small, quiet ways, we can and will chip away at the lies, the smears, the verbal and physical assault, the hatred.
So, homophobes, you've already done your worst, and we're still here. Gay people are coming out at younger ages in many places. We are your friends and your neighbors, your siblings and parents, uncles, aunts, cousins, co-workers, bosses and subordinates, we write your TV shows and movies, we cook your food, we serve in the military, the police, the firehouses, we are around you everywhere, every day and you don't even know it.
Even if those laws pass we will go on living our lives and there's not a damn thing anyone can do about it.